E-cigarette use is on the rise across Europe, despite more than half of EU citizens now believing the devices to be harmful.
A study published in the online journal Tobacco Control, showed that the proportion of people across the 27 EU-member states who had tried an e-cigarette stood at 11.6 per cent in 2014.
This was an increase of 4.4 per cent on 2012, with the current statistics ranging from 5.7 per cent of respondents in Portugal, to 21.3 per cent in France.
In Ireland, 12.2 per cent said they had tried an e- cigarette, compared to 4.4 per cent in 2012, while in the UK the figure had risen from 8.9 per cent to 15.5 per cent.
The survey also asked those who had experimented with the devices if they had continued to use them.
Britain and Ireland had some of the highest percentages in Europe when it comes to now-permanent users, with 26.5 per cent and 23.2 per cent respectively.
It was found that a variety of factors contributed to the increase in e-cigarette use, with a number of people trying it because they believed it would help them give up smoking.
A further reason was getting around smoking bans, but any perceived attractiveness from vaping was found to have no bearing on adopting the practice.
Despite this increase in the overall popularity of e- cigarettes, the proportion of Europeans who think they pose a health risk has nearly doubled.
In the Netherlands, over 78 per cent of respondents now think vaping is damaging to one’s health, though in Hungary, for example, the figure lies at just 32.6 per cent. The UK had one of the lowest proportions of citizens who thought e- cigarettes were harmful, with 38.4 per cent saying they were.
In Ireland, almost one in two now perceive them as dangerous, a significant increase from just 12.5 per cent in 2012.
In any case, the researchers suggested that, since almost a third of all respondents said they didn’t know whether e-cigarettes were harmful, there are prevailing levels of uncertainty about their safety.
This is something the NHS has affirmed; stating that, given their relative youth, there is not enough evidence about e-cigarettes to give a conclusive opinion on them.
But it has acknowledged their effectiveness in getting people to quit smoking and believes that, on current evidence, they carry a fraction of the risks associated with tobacco.
Currently there are no e- cigarettes on the market that are licensed as medicines, meaning they are not available on prescription from the NHS.
This could change in the foreseeable future, however, with the UK medicines regulator approving a brand of e-cigarette to be marketed as an aid to stop smoking last January.
The Health Service Executive in Ireland says it will publish an official policy on e-cigarettes on its website soon.