Electronic cigarette use in the European Union: analysis of a representative sample of 27 460 Europeans from 28 countries

Addiction. 2016 Nov;111(11):2032-2040. doi: 10.1111/add.13506. Epub 2016 Aug 21.


Aims: To assess prevalence of electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use, reported changes in smoking status due to e-cigarette use and correlates of e-cigarette use in the European Union (EU) member states in 2014.

Design: Cross-sectional survey of EU citizens representative of the population (Special Eurobarometer 429).

Setting: All 28 Member States of the EU.

Participants: A total of 27 460 EU citizens aged ≥ 15 years (after excluding those who responded 'Do not know' to the questions about smoking status and e-cigarette use).

Measurements: Descriptive analysis [%, 95% confidence interval (CI)] of e-cigarette use prevalence (current use, past use and past experimentation) according to smoking status, self-reported changes in smoking status according to patterns of e-cigarette use and logistic regression analysis to examine correlates of e-cigarette use, especially socio-demographic factors and smoking status.

Findings: Ever e-cigarette use was reported by 31.1% (95% CI = 30.0-32.2%) of current smokers, 10.8% (95% CI = 10.0-11.7%) of former smokers and 2.3% (95% CI = 2.1-2.6%) of never smokers. Past experimentation [7.2% (95% CI = 6.9-7.5%)] was more common than current [1.8% (95% CI = 1.6-1.9%)] and past use [2.6% (95% CI = 2.4-2.8%)]. Extrapolated to the whole population, approximately 48.5 million EU citizens were ever e-cigarette users, with 76.8% using nicotine-containing e-cigarettes. An estimated 6.1 and 9.2 million EU citizens had quit and reduced smoking with the help of e-cigarettes, respectively. Initiation with e-cigarettes was reported by 0.8% (95% CI = 0.6-0.9%) of participants who reported ever use of any tobacco-related product. Only 1.3% (95% CI = 1.1-1.5%) of never smokers used nicotine-containing e-cigarettes, with 0.09% (95% CI = 0.04-0.14%) reporting daily nicotine use. Smoking cessation with the help of e-cigarettes was reported by 35.1% (95% CI = 30.7-39.5%) of current e-cigarette users, while a further 32.2% (95% CI = 29.9-36.5%) reported smoking reduction. Being current [odds ratio (OR) = 21.23, 95% CI = 18.32-24.59) or former smokers (OR = 6.49, 95% CI = 5.49-7.67) were the strongest correlates of ever e-cigarette use.

Conclusions: E-cigarette use in the European Union appears to be largely confined to current or former smokers, while current use and nicotine use by people who have never smoked is rare. More than one-third of current e-cigarette users polled reported smoking cessation and reduction.

Keywords: Electronic cigarettes; European Union; nicotine; smoking; smoking cessation; tobacco.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems / statistics & numerical data*
  • European Union
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Smoking Cessation / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Class
  • Young Adult