(Medical Xpress)—The number of adults in Britain who use electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) has tripled over the past two years, from an estimated 700,000 users in 2012 to 2.1 million in 2014, according to survey data released by the charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices which simulate tobacco smoking by producing a nicotine vapor that resembles smoke.
According to the survey, nearly two-thirds of e-cigarettes users say they're smokers, while one third are ex-smokers - an increase in the proportion of ex-smokers compared to surveys in previous years.
The proportion of users who say they're non-smokers is negligible (0.1 per cent)and only around 1 per cent of people who say they've never smoked said they'd tried electronic cigarettes.
The survey, carried out by YouGov, reveals a substantial rise in the number of current and ex-smokers who have tried electronic cigarettes over the past four years. In 2010, just over 8 per cent of current or ex-smokers had ever tried electronic cigarettes. By 2014, this figure had risen to nearly 52 per cent.
There has been a consistent rise in the number of current or ex-smokers who use electronic cigarettes on a regular basis, from 2.7 per cent in 2010 to 17.7 per cent in 2014.
Just over a third (35 per cent) of British adults believe that electronic cigarettes are good for public health while around a quarter (22 per cent) disagree.
Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK's head of tobacco policy, said the rapid rise use reflected the fact that most smokers want to quit. "We need to make the most of the opportunity these products present, but minimise the risks through proper regulation of the products and their marketing," she said.
"The massive take up of these novel devices is unprecedented, so we also need to see further study of their long-term effects," she added.