Most Europeans who have tried electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are young, current smokers, or those who recently tried quitting regular cigarettes, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). Nearly 30 million Europeans have tried the battery-operated cigarettes, in spite of the fact that not much is known about their potential risks to health or whether they help smokers trying to quit.
The study appeared online on June 16 in Tobacco Control. It is the largest study to date on e-cigarette use in the European Union.
“As e-cigarettes represent an emerging market in which the tobacco industry has extensively invested, it is imperative to identify the population subgroups that are more likely to use them and the subsequent implications this might have on public health,” said Dr. Constantine Vardavas, senior research scientist at HSPH’s Center for Global Tobacco Control (CGTC), in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “These new findings show that millions—including many young people and smokers trying to quit—are trying e-cigarettes, which underscores the importance of assessing their potential harm or benefits.”
Among smokers, e-cigarette use was more likely among 15–24 year olds in comparison with older smokers, and among heavier smokers (6–10 or more cigarettes per day) in comparison with light smokers (5 or fewer cigarettes per day). Notably, the study also indicated that smokers may be experimenting with e-cigarettes as smoking cessation devices, as those who tried to quit in the past year were twice as likely to have ever used e-cigarettes as smokers who had not tried to quit.