The number of adults who considered e-cigarettes to be less harmful than combustible cigarettes declined between 2015 and 2017.
The study published by the JAMA Network analysed the data from two multi-year, nationally-representative surveys assessing respondents’ perception of the harms of smoking verses vaping among adults in 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
In one survey, the number of respondents who considered vaping to be less harmful than smoking decreased from 39.4 percent in 2012 to 33.9 percent in 2017. In the other survey, the number decreased from 50.7 percent in 2012 to 34.5 percent in 2017.
The researchers concluded:
“Given the demonstration by previous studies that perception of risk plays a critical role in decisions to use tobacco, our results imply that at least some smokers may have been deterred from using or switching to e-cigarettes due to the growing perception that e-cigarettes are equally harmful or more harmful than cigarettes.
“Our results underscore the urgent need for accurate communication of the scientific evidence on the health risks of e-cigarettes and the importance of clearly differentiating the absolute harm from the relative harm of e-cigarettes”
In an attempt to dispel the myths about the relative harms of smoking vs vaping, Public Health England (PHE) released video in December showing how sticky, black tar accumulated on smokers’ lungs. However, vaping only produced a trace amount of residue.
Dr Lion Shahab, from University College London, who appeared in the video, said at the time:
“The false belief that vaping is as harmful as smoking could be preventing thousands of smokers from switching to e-cigarettes to help them quit.
“I hope this illustrative experiment helps people see the huge damage caused by smoking that could be avoided by switching to an e-cigarette.
“Research we and others have conducted shows that vaping is much less harmful than smoking and that using e-cigarettes on a long-term basis is relatively safe, similar to using licensed nicotine products, like nicotine patches or gum. Using e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement such as patches or gum will boost your chances of quitting successfully.”