The number of people in France and Britain who have tried an electronic or e-cigarette has risen sharply in just two years, according to a Europe-wide study.

The research, led by scientists at Britain's Imperial College London and published today, looked at attitudes to and use of e-cigarettes across Europe between 2012 and 2014.

It found that France had the highest use of e-cigarettes, with the proportion of those who had tried one nearly tripling to 21.3 per cent from 7.3 per cent.

In the UK the figure rose from 8.9 per cent in 2012 to 15.5 per cent in 2014 - higher than the European average.


Using data from more than 53,000 people across Europe - with at least 1000 from each country - the study also found the proportion of people across Europe who consider e-cigarettes dangerous nearly doubled to 51 per cent from 27 per cent.

1 E-cigarettes are metal tubes that heat liquids typically laced with nicotine and deliver vapour when inhaled
2 The liquids come in thousands of flavours, from cotton candy to pizza
3 Use of the devices has grown quickly in the past decade, with US sales expected to reach US$4.1 billion in 2016, according to Wells Fargo Securities.
4 Experts fiercely debate whether the devices can help people give up smoking and whether they are safe.

Some studies raise concerns about the toxicity of some of the ingredients.

"This research shows e-cigarettes are becoming very popular across Europe - with more than one in 10 people in Europe now having tried one," said Filippos Filippidis, who led the European study and published it in the BMJ journal Tobacco Control.

Noting that there are still questions about the long-term risks and benefits of e-cigarettes, he added: "We urgently need more research into the devices so that we can answer these questions."

The average number of people across Europe who had tried an e-cigarette rose by 60 per cent between 2012 and 2014, to 11.6 per cent from 7.2 per cent.

Most people who reported trying e-cigarettes were former or current smokers, although the number who had never smoked tobacco but had tried them also rose.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll today found that in the US, use of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices has stalled with about 10 per cent of those surveyed using the devices, the same percentage as in a similar poll in 2015.

- Reuters, AAP