AH, the fags behind the bike sheds. It was almost a rite of passage when I was a youngster. I didn’t know anyone at school who had not smoked at least a few cigarettes. Many were then hooked – for life.

Now sadly, those whose early cigarettes became a habit are dying prematurely.

Last year 80,000 deaths of people over 35 (one in six of the total) were estimated to be caused by smoking.

The proportion of such deaths hasn’t changed in eight years. That’s despite all the anti-smoking campaigns, because amongst older age-groups there are still large numbers who are, or were, heavy smokers.

But the anti-smoking policies are, nonetheless, working.

Bike sheds are now used for storing bikes. The numbers of pupils aged 11 to 15 who reported that they had tried smoking at least once has almost halved in ten years – down to around one in five. The proportion of adults who regularly smoke has also plummeted, to 20 per cent.

Where do e-cigarettes fit into stop-smoking policies?

We have a particular interest in e-cigarettes in East Lancashire. One key manufacturer of these products, Wicked, is based in Blackburn.

Some US studies have suggested that e-cigarettes could act as ‘gateway’ to the real thing, and actually encourage people to start smoking.

That never struck me as being likely, since everyone I know who uses an e-cigarette is trying to give up tobacco.

Now the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has confirmed my gut feeling.

As a new report from the ONS has put it, “e-cigarettes are used almost exclusively by smokers and ex-smokers.”

A survey by the anti-smoking campaign group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said that half of those using e-cigarettes viewed them as a way of transitioning off smoking altogether.

And medical researchers at University College London have say their results show that for every million smokers who switch from tobacco to e-cigarettes, as many as 6,000 premature deaths would thus be prevented.

More research is needed fully to understand the effects of e-cigarettes but as things stand I’m in little doubt that e-cigarettes are much more for the good than the bad.