Objectives: The recent growth in the market for electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) has led to concerns over their use by young people. It is therefore important to examine trends in the perception and use of e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes in this group.
Study design: Two-wave cross-sectional survey design.
Methods: Young people aged 11-18 in Great Britain were surveyed online by YouGov in 2013 and 2014. Use of e-cigarettes, together with perceived health harms and intention to use were assessed and compared in relation to cigarette smoking history, age and gender.
Results: Ever-use of e-cigarettes increased significantly from 4.6% (95% CI 3.8-5.7) in 2013 to 8.2% (95% CI 7.0-9.6) in 2014. Monthly or more use of e-cigarettes increased from 0.9% (95% CI 0.5-1.5) to 1.7 (1.2-2.4), but remained rare in never-smokers at under 0.2%. The proportion of young people who perceived e-cigarettes to be less harmful to users than cigarettes fell from 73.4% (95% CI 71.0-75.8) to 66.9% (95% CI 64.5-69.2), while the proportion who considered e-cigarettes to cause similar levels of harm increased from 11.8% (95% CI 10.0-13.5) to 18.2% (95% CI 16.3-20.1). Of the 8.2% of e-cigarette ever-users in 2014, 69.8% (95% CI 62.2%-77.3%) had smoked a cigarette prior to using an e-cigarette, while 8.2% (95% CI 4.1%-12.2%) first smoked a cigarette after e-cigarette use.
Conclusions: A growing proportion of young people in Great Britain believe e-cigarettes are as harmful as smoking tobacco. Use of e-cigarettes by young people is increasing, but is largely confined to those who smoke.
Keywords: E-cigarettes; Great Britain; Young people.
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