E-cigarette use rare in non-smokers - survey

LONDON (Reuters) - The use of electronic cigarettes in England is largely confined to smokers and ex-smokers, according to a government-backed survey, the latest report to suggest that e-cigarettes were not attracting new smokers.

The Health Survey for England found that among men who were not smokers, only 1 percent had ever tried e-cigarettes, while 29 percent of smokers and 6 percent of ex-smokers said they had.

Proportions were similar for women, said the survey, which was published on Wednesday.

E-cigarettes are metal tubes that heat nicotine-laced liquid into an inhailable vapour. Proponents see them as a healthier alternative to tobacco cigarettes, while critics fear social acceptance of them will lead to increased smoking. They also cite a lack of data on the health effects of long-term use.

The latest findings are in line with other surveys -- one published last month by Britain’s Office for National Statistics and one commissioned by the health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

All seem to question a key argument that critics of the devices use in pushing for greater restrictions.

“While it is clearly important to continue to monitor both smoking rates and use of electronic cigarettes in adults and children, so far there is no evidence that use of electronic cigarettes is proving to be a gateway into smoking,” Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said in a statement.

The Health Survey for England was carried out by the Joint Health Surveys Unit of NatCen Social Research and the Research Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London. It interviewed 8,795 adults and 2,185 children.

Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Crispian Balmer