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Trends in electronic cigarette use in Scotland

Vera Buss, Loren Kock, Robert West, Emma Beard, Dimitra Kale, Jamie Brown

Updated 18th October 2022


Electronic cigarette use has become prevalent in many countries

In Scotland, electronic cigarettes are currently regulated as consumer products

It is important to track use of electronic cigarettes and assess how far they appear to be promoting or detracting from reduction in prevalence of cigarette smoking


To track use of electronic cigarettes over time and assess how far any increase is accompanied by changes in:

  • use of other aids to cessation or smoking reduction
  • key performance indicators for tobacco control (smoking prevalence, smoking cessation rates, attempts to stop smoking, success of attempts to stop smoking

To assess prevalence of use of electronic cigarettes in people who have never smoked regularly or stopped for more than a year

To estimate changes in the total tobacco and nicotine market

The following indicators will be added in October 2021:

  • Proportion of daily e-cigarette and NRT users who are smokers
  • Frequency of e-cigarette use among smokers and ex-smokers
  • Characteristics of e-cigarettes
  • Source of e-cigarette purchase
  • Use of e-cigarettes by age, social grade and sex
  • Use of nicotine products in recent ex-smokers


Monthly household surveys

Each month involves a new representative sample (18 and over) of ~450 respondents.

Due to the pandemic, from April 2020 surveys conducted by telephone (rather than face-to-face) and among adults aged 18 and over

Kock et al., (2021). Protocol for expansion of an existing national monthly survey of smoking behaviour and alcohol use in England to Scotland and Wales: The Smoking and Alcohol Toolkit Study. Wellcome Open Research, 6(67), 67.

Summary I

Approximately 10% of the adult population in Scotland use e-cigarettes

Use of Juul and heated tobacco products is rare

Approximately 12-15% long-term ex-smokers (quit >1 year) use e-cigarettes, but use among never smokers is relatively rare

Almost half of all EC users are dual users (also smoke)

A smaller proportion of both e-cigarette and NRT daily users are ‘dual users’ (also smoke)

Summary II

Frequency of use among users is greater in ex-smokers

The majority of e-cigarettes used contain nicotine

Ex-smokers and smokers use e-liquids with similar concentrations of nicotine. A minority did not know the strength

Specialist vape shops (including online specialist) are most popular source for purchase

Summary III

Approximately 1 in 3 smokers and recent ex-smokers (quit in the past year) use e-cigarettes

E-cigarettes are the most popular aid used in a smoking quit attempt

Summary IV

The majority of current smokers in Scotland believe e-cigarettes are as harmful as cigarettes.

The number of smokers who believe e-cigarettes are more harmful than cigarettes has increased.


Approximately 7% of the adult population in Scotland use e-cigarettes, but use of e-cigarettes by never smokers remains very rare and similar to use of licensed nicotine products.