Adult users of electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) tripled this year in Great Britain, says a new study released by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), a health charity. From around 700,000 e-cigarette smokers in 2012, figures swelled to about 2.1 million this year.

Of these, close to two-thirds of the users are smokers, and one third are former smokers, with the latter said to have increased as opposed to the previous years. Meanwhile, self-reported non-smokers who currently use e-cigarette only account for 0.1 percent and never smokers who report trying e-cigarette were only one percent.

The survey on e-cigarette use was conducted [pdf] by YouGov but contracted by ASH. It shows an intense growth in the proportion of ex-smokers and current smokers who depend on e-cigarette in the last four years. To further show the huge increase in the figures, merely 8.2 percent of ex-smokers or current smokers ever tried e-cigarettes in 2010, but in 2014, it swelled to 51.7 percent.

"The dramatic rise in use of electronic cigarettes over the past four years suggests that smokers are increasingly turning to these devices to help them cut down or quit smoking," Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, says in a statement.

What's interesting however is that only about 35 percent of adults in Britain think e-cigarette is good for public health and 22 percent think otherwise.

In its first attempt to ask about the e-cigarette type that is commonly used by the surveyed adults, YouGov discovered that more than half of them jumpstarted with rechargeable e-cigarettes with prefilled cartridges and only one out of four respondents first used e-cigarettes with a reservoir or tank.  Among current e-cigarette users, the figures are rather balanced: 47 percent often use rechargeable ones with prefilled cartridges while 41 percent use those with separate reservoir or tank. Those who started off with the use of disposable e-cigarette only account for 20 percent and those who most often and currently use it are only about 8 percent.

Reasons for the use of e-cigarettes are varied, shows the survey. For ex-smokers, 71 percent of them said e-cigarettes are seen to help them stop smoking completely and 48 percent said to help them keep off from tobacco. For current smokers, 48 percent said to help them reduce--not entirely stop--the tobacco amount they smoke, 38 percent said to save them money as compared with tobacco smoking and 36 percent said to help them totally stop smoking.

"While it is important to control the advertising of electronic cigarettes to make sure children and non-smokers are not being targeted, there is no evidence from our research that e-cigarettes are acting as a gateway into smoking," Arnott also says.

A Smoking Toolkit Study, a different survey conducted in England, also discovered that there's an increasing number of smokers who turn to e-cigarette as their support to abandoning the tobacco habit, surpassing medicinal nicotine product use such as gums and patches. In 2013, the survey saw an increasing number of smokers who kicked the habit and at the same time, England saw a decrease in smoking rates.

"Despite claims that use of electronic cigarettes risks renormalizing smoking, we found no evidence to support this view. On the contrary, electronic cigarettes may be helping to reduce smoking as more people use them as an aid to quitting," professor Robert West, lead author of said study, says in a statement.

The ASH survey was welcomed by the e-cigarette industry, with the latter saying that the survey only goes to prove that such devices are not attracting the public into tobacco as opposed to what the British Medical Association and other health opponents believe. 

"The reverse is going on - smokers are switching into e-cigarettes as the way to reduce the harm from tobacco," says Charles Hamshaw-Thomas, director for legal and corporate affairs of E-Lites, an e-cigarette company.

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