Children are three times as likely to try e-cigarettes as tobacco products, study finds

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 05 December 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g7508
  1. Jacqui Wise
  1. 1London

A study funded by the Welsh government has found that 6% of children aged 10-11 have tried electronic cigarettes, three times as many as have tried smoking tobacco.1 The researchers from Cardiff University said that e-cigarettes seem to be an increasingly popular way for children to experiment with nicotine and could be a gateway into smoking, with the proportion of children saying they might take up smoking being higher in children who had tried e-cigarettes.

E-cigarette use is more common among children whose parents smoke tobacco and is associated with increased intention to take up smoking, concluded the study, which collected data from 1601 of 1862 eligible children (86% response rate) in 75 schools in Wales.

Two thirds of the children surveyed said that they had heard of e-cigarettes. Twelve per cent of children whose parents both smoked but only 4% of children whose parents didn’t smoke reported having used an e-cigarette. While most of the children who had tried an e-cigarette said they did not intend to take up smoking, 15% said that they might or would take up smoking in the next two years, whereas the proportion was only 2% among those who had not tried an e-cigarette.

The Welsh government has expressed its concern over the increasing visibility of e-cigarette use in public places and the possibility that this may undo some of the work that has gone into the “de-normalising” of smoking. The study asked children whether they had seen people smoking e-cigarettes inside and outside various public places in the previous month. E-cigarettes were most commonly seen being used at bus stations (29% inside; 32% outside) train stations (24%; 27%), and cinemas (20%; 20%). Children also reported seeing e-cigarettes used inside and outside leisure venues, hospitals, and GP surgeries.

The survey also found that fewer children were exposed to tobacco smoke in cars than in a similar survey carried out in 2008. In this year’s survey 9% of children said that smoking was allowed in their family vehicle, down from 18% in 2008. Four per cent reported being exposed to secondhand smoke in a car the previous day, down from 7% in 2008.

Among children with at least one parent who smoked, 20% reported that smoking was allowed in their family car, down from 35% in 2008. Children from the poorest families were substantially more likely to report that smoking was allowed in their car than those from richer families (17% versus 7%).


Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g7508


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