Warned proportion of people who believe they are equally or more harmful than cigarettes has increased
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said there are now 2.6 million vapers in Britain, up from 2.1 million in 2014.
Nearly all of this increase is attributable to a rise in ex-smokers using electronic cigarettes, it said.
The campaign group said the figures showed the ‘value’ of e-cigarettes in helping smokers give up tobacco.
Electronic cigarette use increased to 6.7 per cent in 2015, up from 4.5 per cent in 2014, a study found. A cigalike model of the device is pictured
But it also warned of a ‘worrying’ increase in people falsely believing they are as harmful as or even more dangerous than regular cigarettes.
Nearly 22 per cent of people believed this in 2015 compared to 15 per cent last year.
Analysis by researchers at King’s College London shows that electronic cigarette use increased among ex-smokers from 4.5 per cent in 2014 to 6.7 per cent in 2015, ASH said.
It remained the same among current smokers at 17.6 per cent between 2014 – 15.
Vaping remains extremely rare among people who have never smoked, with just 0.2 per cent of users falling into this category over the last three years.
The group said there has also been a change in popularity of the type of device used.
Cigalikes, which resemble tobacco cigarettes and are either disposable or use replaceable cartridges, were used by more than half (55 per cent) of vapers last year.
The tank model, which looks quite different from cigarettes and has containers that can be refilled with ‘e-liquid’, are now puffed on by two-thirds (66 per cent) of e-cigarette users.
This can be seen as a positive thing as tank e-cigarettes were found to be more effective at helping tobacco smokers to quit than cigalikes in a study carried out at King’s College London, which was published last month.
The most popular reason people gave for using e-cigarettes was to help them stop smoking completely (48 per cent) and to prevent them from relapsing to smoking (38 per cent)
Recent research conducted in the US also found that flavourings used in e-cigarettes contain potentially harmful high levels of chemicals, while a study of mice indicated that vaping may harm the lungs and immune system.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: ‘The number of ex-smokers who are staying off tobacco by using electronic cigarettes is growing, showing just what value they can have.
‘But the number of people who wrongly believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking is worrying.
‘The growth of this false perception risks discouraging many smokers from using electronic cigarettes to quit and keep them smoking instead which would be bad for their health and the health of those around them.’
Dr Leonie Brose, of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London, said: ‘We must clearly communicate the relative safety of electronic cigarettes to smokers.
‘The proven harm of tobacco is currently getting less coverage than the much smaller and far less certain harm from electronic cigarettes. We owe it to smokers to provide them with accurate information.’
By: Labdhi Jain