Leader comment: Jury is out on e-cigarettes

The public perception of e-cigarettes is that they represent a more attractive option than smoking tobacco, because they are believed to be safer than a conventional cigarette as well as less grubby. And significantly, they are viewed as a way of weaning the user off harmful tobacco smoking, even although e-cigarettes can still contain nicotine.

A link has been found between trying e-cigarettes, and then going on to try tobacco cigarettes. Picture: PA

For those who would like e-cigarettes to help end tobacco smoking, new research at the University of Stirling brings unwelcome news. In a survey, 40 per cent of young people who tried e-cigarettes went on to smoke tobacco. Only 13 per cent of those who had not tried an e-cigarette went on to try tobacco.

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The findings are in line with studies carried out in the United States, and the results lead us to question our thinking about e-cigarettes.

To understand the causes and effects, further research is required. We do not have firm evidence that e-cigarettes make young people to go on to smoke – some of them would have gone on to smoke tobacco regardless – but until the position is clarified, a question mark hangs over the main supposed benefit of the e-cigarette.