The number of people who use electronic cigarettes in the UK has tripled over the past two years to 2.1 million – the highest it has ever been.
Despite the long term effects of e-cigarettes remaining unclear, just over half of current or ex-smokers have now tried electronic cigarettes, compared with 8% in 2010.
From those 700,000 ex-smokers, 71% admitted to using the tobacco alternatives as a tool to quit smoking altogether.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), told the BBC: "The dramatic rise in use of electronic cigarettes over the past four years suggests that smokers are increasingly turning to these devices to help them cut down or quit smoking. Significantly, usage among non-smokers remains negligible."
Of those now estimated to be using electronic cigarettes, around 700,000 are thought to be ex-smokers and 1.3 million to be using them alongside normal cigarettes or tobacco.
Current smokers using the cigarettes regularly have risen from 2.7% in 2010 to 17.7% in 2014.
The debate surrounding whether e-cigarettes encourage young people to pick up the habit, and if it is in fact a gateway to the smoking of tobacco cigarettes has once again opened. ASH found that the number of non-smokers who use them still remains low at a staggering 1%.
The study is stubbing out the opinion that these cigarettes are renormalising smoking as it found no evidence to support this view. As a matter of fact, it may actually be helping to reduce the number of smokers.
From the surveys conducted by the charity since 2010, among smokers, 48% said they wanted to reduce the amount of tobacco they smoked and 37% said they used e-cigarettes to save money.
Even more remarkable, research by The Smoking Toolkit Study, which covers England, found that the proportion of smokers who gave up smoking in the past year had increased and smoking rates in England were continuing to fall.
Smoking support groups have voiced their encouragement of the use of e-cigarettes, but have also expressed their concerns over how smokers are experimenting with them instead of using them as a method to quit.
Expert in the industry, Richard Russell from e-cigarette company Diamond Mist, shared his concerns on the issue: “It’s clear that even though these cigarettes are proving to be a vital device to crack down on tobacco smoking, there still needs to be a greater fall in the number of cigarette smokers. Thus we, in the industry, need to focus on advancing the technology of e-cigs to make this happen whilst maintaining our stance on more stringent regulation. We also strongly recommend that an age restriction policy is set in place, preventing any under 18's from smoking e-cigarettes. ”