Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) have gained popularity rapidly in the Western world but data in the East are scarce. We examined the awareness and ever use of e-cigarettes, and reasons for e-cigarette use in a probability sample of adults in Hong Kong.
Cross-sectional data were collected in 2014 from Chinese adults aged 15–65 in Hong Kong (819 never smokers, 800 former smokers, 800 current smokers) via computer-assisted telephone interviews (response rate: 73.8%). Analysis was limited to a subset of 809 respondents (i.e., 357 never smokers, 269 former smokers, 183 current smokers) who were randomly selected to answer questions on e-cigarettes. Chi-square analyses compared e-cigarette awareness and ever use by gender, age, education, and cigarette smoking status. Multivariable logistic regression examined if e-cigarette awareness was associated with demographic variables and cigarette smoking status.
75.4% of adults had heard of e-cigarettes, and 2.3% reported having used e-cigarettes. Greater awareness was associated with male gender and higher education. Ever use of e-cigarettes was higher among males (3.6%, p = .03), younger adults (aged 15–29, 5.2%, p = .002), and current cigarette smokers (11.8%, p < .001). Common reasons for using e-cigarettes were curiosity (47.4%), the stylish product design (25.8%), and quitting smoking (13.6%).
Awareness of e-cigarettes was widespread in Hong Kong. Although the use of e-cigarettes was low, its relation with younger age and current smoking is of concern. Health surveillance of e-cigarette use is needed. Interventions should target young adults and cigarette smokers, and address the marketing messages, especially the effect of e-cigarettes on smoking cessation.