According to national charity Ash, smoking is well and truly on the way out. New research has shown diminishing numbers among young people, with 3% of 11-15 year olds in England classing themselves as ‘regular smokers’ compared to 9% a decade ago.
This change has been helped greatly by the changes to the law, which have seen smoking outlawed in cafes, pubs, shops and other public places. But there have been other factors at play, too. And in some quarters the rise of E-cigarettes and "vaping" is credited with having as big an effect on smoking rates as anything else.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered gizmos that simulate smoking by releasing nicotine via a heated liquid. They have grown hugely in popularity over the past 12 months, with an estimated 2.1million in regular use.
The string of celebrities using e-cigarettes - including Lily Allen, Johnny Depp, Snoop dog and even Kevin Spacey’s character on TV show House of Cards- has helped to not only build awareness of e-cigarettes, but even managed to give them an air of "cool" among smokers.
Vaping has not escaped controversy, however. Contrary to claims that it can play an important role in smoking cessation, critics have described vaping as a ‘gateway’ to cigarette use, as well as highlighting the risk of smoking beingnormalised around children.
In response, the British Medical Association has requested research be carried out on the effects of e-cigarettes on young people and whether they encourage switching to traditional cigarettes. In a recent web post, they said: "It's really important that we find out if the hand-to-mouth use of e-cigarettes either breaks or reinforces smoking behaviours."
Currently, the e-cigarette industry is unregulated, meaning there is no evidence to say definitively if vaping is safe or not. There are also no marketing or advertising restrictions on the products. This means the sale of e-cigarettes operates in a grey area of sorts.
A GP based in North Wales, Dr Nitin Shori said: "There are definitely quality concerns with some of them. The reason people are not being strongly warned off the use of e-cigs is that there is a presumption that they won’t carry as many safety risks as normal cigarettes.
"Regulation and rigid long term safety data are required for the medical profession to fully support e-cigs. Until that time, we are relying on a presumption and can therefore only offer tentative advice."