April 16, 2015

Two in three e-cigarette users are also smoking tobacco

New research shows that two in three e-cigarette users are also smoking tobacco at the same time.  And our research shows that using e-cigarettes may actually increase smokers’ dependence on nicotine.

Without regulation, no medical or pharmaceutical advice is being given alongside the purchase of e-cigarettes, creating the potential for long-term use. The Irish Cancer Society is calling on the Department of Health to regulate e-cigarettes as a medicinal product so that their safety and use can be monitored.

In March, we commissioned an independent study of adults, aged 15 and older in addition to 150 smokers.The poll of 1,150 adults shows that the popularity of e-cigarettes is continuing to grow with more than 210,000 users in Ireland despite the lack of any oversight by the Department of Health.

“This survey clearly shows that right now e-cigarettes are not a quitting aid as some people are led to believe,” says Kathleen O’Meara, Head of Advocacy and Communications.

“E-cigarettes are becoming an increasingly popular choice for smokers looking for a healthier lifestyle and to save money.  But there are better, more proven ways to quit smoking than choosing devices that still have no regulations in Ireland.”

A concerning fact highlighted by our research was that 5% of current smokers used e-cigarettes before they started smoking.  It reflects the fear that they are being used as a ‘gateway’ product to tobacco. Rather than being an aid to quitting, it could now be considered an initiator to smoking.

We can't recommend the use of e-cigarettes without guarantees on their long-term safety. In the absence of proven safety and efficacy, we want the Department of Health to regulate e-cigarettes as medicinal product similar to other Nicotine Replacement Therapies.

“Our research shows more than two-thirds of those surveyed agree that the sale of these devices should be banned to minors.  A similar amount of people agree that not enough is known about the side-effects of using e-cigarettes.”

The survey also showed that 53% of people believe e-cigarettes should be included in the workplace smoking ban with 20% disagreeing.

“The vast majority of e-cigarette users are smokers looking to cut down or quit,” says Kathleen O’Meara. “The Irish Cancer Society recommends that smokers quit immediately and permanently.

“If e-cigarettes are to be considered a quitting aid in the future, they need to be properly regulated by the Department of Health. We are calling for them to be designated as a medicinal device in the same way nicotine patches and gum are now. Ireland is lagging behind on bringing in such laws. Austria, Sweden and Denmark have all introduced legislation making nicotine-containing e-cigarettes medicinal products.

“Nicotine is addictive and giving up is tough. There are more effective treatments that have been proven to increase your chances of quitting up to four times. E-cigarettes are not one of them.”

Read the research here.