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Publication, Part of

Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People in England 2018 [NS]

National statistics

National Statistics

Part 4: Electronic cigarette use (vaping)

In 2014, pupils were asked for the first time about e-cigarettes, with further questions added in 2016.

New legislation came into force in England and Wales on 1 October 2015, introducing a minimum age of sale of 18 for e-cigarettes and prohibiting the purchase of these products on behalf of someone under the age of 18.

In 2015, Public Health England (PHE) published an independent evidence review on electronic cigarettes which concluded that the devices are significantly less harmful than smoking. The review also found no evidence that electronic cigarettes act as a route into smoking for children or non-smokers:

Pupils were asked about awareness, frequency and length of use, sources of e-cigarettes, success in obtaining them from shops, and attitudes to use.

Pupils were categorised in three ways based on the responses given:

  • Regular users (defined as usually using an e-cigarette at least once per week);
  • Occasional users (defined as using an e-cigarette sometimes but less than once per week); or
  • Non-users (including those who reported using them just once or twice in total).

Current users include both regular and occasional users.

The majority (90%) of pupils were aware of e-cigarettes. Pupils who said they weren't aware were not asked any further questions on e-cigarettes. 


E-cigarette prevalence

E-cigarette prevalence, by year

25% (confidence interval 23-26%) of pupils reported they had ever used e-cigarettes, the same as in 2016. 

Current and regular e-cigarette prevalence have remained at 6% and 2% respectively. 


Current e-cigarette use, by sex and age

Boys were more likely than girls to be current e-cigarette users. 


Current e-cigarette use increased with age; from less than 1% of 11 year olds, to 11% of 15 year olds.


E-cigarette prevalence, by cigarette smoking status

Pupils who had ever smoked were much more likely to also have ever used an e-cigarette, than those who had never smoked.

Most regular smokers (92%) reported having ever used e-cigarettes. This compares to just 14% of pupils who had never smoked.

Regular smokers are more likely to be regular e-cigarette users; 29% in 2018. This falls to 9% for ex-smokers, 4% for pupils who had tried smoking once, and less than 1% of pupils who had never smoked.


For more data relating to this section:



Sources of e-cigarettes

Main sources of e-cigarettes (regular users)

Pupils could give more than one answer. Only the most common sources are discussed. 

Regular e-cigarette users were most commonly given them by friends (38%). 

Other common sources were to buy them from the internet (29%), friends or relatives (29%), or from someone else (26%). 17% said they bought them from e-cigarette shops.

Buying from any kind of shop fell from 37% in 2016, to 29% in 2018. Buying from the internet increased from 23% to 29% over the same period (see table 4.6).  


Difficulty buying from shops

All pupils

5% of all pupils had asked someone else to buy them e-cigarettes or refills from a shop in the last year.

Of these pupils, 72% were successful.

Current e-cigarette users

40% of current e-cigarette users had asked someone else to buy them e-cigarettes or refills from a shop in the last year.

Of these users, 82% were successful.


For more data relating to this section:



Attitudes to e-cigarette use

Attitudes to e-cigarette use by people of pupil's age, by age

36% of pupils thought it was ok for people of their own age to try an e-cigarette to see what it's like, and 24% thought it was ok to use an e-cigarette once a week.

Positive attitude increased with age; 6% of 11 year olds thought it was ok for someone of their own age to use an e-cigarette once a week, compared to 41% of 15 year olds.


For more data relating to this section:

Last edited: 23 January 2020 3:48 pm