Smoking in numbers: Do e-cigarettes help Scots quit?

Many smokers are switching to e-cigarettes. Photo: John Stillwell/PA WireMany smokers are switching to e-cigarettes. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire
Many smokers are switching to e-cigarettes. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire
RESULTS from the annual Scottish Health Survey found that 1 in 20 Scots now use electric cigarettes.

The figures, which were published yesterday, found 5 per cent of Scottish adults regularly use e-cigarettes, with triple that number having tried them.

The annual survey, for which nearly 4,700 adults in Scotland were interviewd, gives a snapshot of the nation’s health as well as the smoking habits of Scots.

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One in five (22 percent) of those over 16 in Scotland now define themselves as smokers, a proportion similar to 2013 levels.

Younger age groups are more likely to use e-cigarettes  Picture: ScotCenYounger age groups are more likely to use e-cigarettes  Picture: ScotCen
Younger age groups are more likely to use e-cigarettes Picture: ScotCen

Among the group of ex-smokers surveyed, 7 per cent were found to currently use e-cigarettes while 14 per cent said they had never used them. When asked about what they had used in their most recent attempt to quit, 64 per cent of recent ex-smokers and current smokers say they’d used nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or e-cigarettes.

The most common items used during their recent quit attempts were nicotine patches (36 per cent) and e-cigarettes (32 per cent).

Research Director at ScotCen Social Research Diarmid Campbell-Jack said: “These findings confirm that e-cigarettes are being used by a small, but not insignificant proportion of people in Scotland with one in every twenty saying that they currently use electric cigarettes.

“It’s important that the role of e-cigarettes isn’t overestimated, particularly until more is known about their long term consequences, however the more that we see a decline in usage of tobacco cigarettes the better for the future of health in Scotland.”

Commisioned by the Scottish government the health report, has been running annually for 20 years.

The study also found evidence to suggest that smokers from the most deprived areas are more than twice as likely to smoke compared to those from the least deprived.

Maureen Watt, Scottish Government Minister for Public Health, said: “This survey gives us some useful information about what the situation is in Scotland.

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“Further research on the health impacts of e-cigarettes on both users and bystanders is needed, and we will continue to monitor evidence. However, current evidence suggests e-cigarettes are far less harmful than tobacco and if using them helps smokers quit entirely then that is to be welcomed.”

The use of e-cigarettes as a potential coping mechanism by smokers attempting to quit has been noted by some health campaigners.

Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive of health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Scotland said: “It’s encouraging that the majority of adults who smoke in Scotland want to quit and for some, e-cigarettes seem to be an acceptable alternative to smoking, or a way of quitting cigarettes. Scotland has a vision for putting cigarettes - the most lethal and addictive consumer product on open sale - out of sight, out of mind and out of fashion for the next generation.

“There are still many unknowns about e-cigarettes but what we do know suggests that lit, smoked tobacco is a lot more harmful to health. Even low levels of smoking are dangerous, and I’d encourage people using both cigarettes and e-cigarettes to drop tobacco as soon as possible.

“Different ways of quitting work for different smokers. Some people find it easier than they expected just to stop. Some find they need nicotine replacement therapy or other medicines. For some, changing their habits works best. There is free expert advice on stopping smoking available from local stop smoking services and pharmacies.”

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