A fifth of young people (21%) in Northern Ireland reported to having used an e-cigarette at least once, according to an official report.
The Young Persons Behaviour & Attitudes Survey 2022, published on Friday by the Department of Health, also revealed that those in the older year groups were more likely to report ever having used, with findings ranging from 6 per cent of those in Year 8 to 44 per cent of those in Year 12.
The Young Persons Behaviour & Attitudes Survey is a school based survey carried out among 11-16 year olds (school years 8 to 12).
According to the report, a similar proportion of boys and girls uses e-cigarettes now (9%) and within this group 6 per cent were classed as regular e-cigarette users, that is, they use e-cigarettes at least once a week.
There was a notable difference across the school years with those in the older age-groups more likely to report e-cigarette use. The proportion of those in Year 12 that indicated they currently use e-cigarettes increased from 10 per cent in 2016 to 24 per cent in 2022 and the proportion classed as regular e-cigarette users increased from 6 per cent to 17 per cent in the same time period.
At the same time, fewer than one-in-ten young people reported ever having smoked (8%) with 2 per cent indicating that they currently smoke. This represents a decrease since 2000, when around two-fifths (37%) reported ever having smoked and 15 per cent were current smokers.
Those who smoke at least once a week are described as regular smokers and this proportion has fallen from 12 per cent in 2000 to 1 per cent in 2022.
Boys (9%) were more likely to report ever having smoked than girls (6%) and young people living in the most deprived quintile were more likely to report ever having smoked (11%) than those in the least deprived quintile (5%). As in the case of vapes, those in the older age-groups were more likely to report ever having smoked and more likely to be regular smokers – a fifth of those in Year 12 (21%) reported ever having smoked however the proportion indicating they were regular smokers was smaller at 3 per cent.