Research from King’s College London which was recently published in the journal Addiction, indicated that smokers and ex-smokers in the UK still believe that vaporizers are more harmful than they actually are. The study which was funded by Cancer Research UK (CRUK) found that sadly, fewer than 6 out of 10 people, accurately believed that e-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes.
21.8% of the participants surveyed said that vaping and smoking are equally harmful, 3.3% said that e-cigarettes are more harmful, and 17.6% said that they didn’t know.
The researchers compiled this data by using an online Ipsos Mori survey of 1720 UK smokers and ex-smokers. The participants were asked about nicotine and perceptions of the relative harms of smoking, e-cigarettes and nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs). The researchers pointed out that sadly, misperceptions about the harms of vaping appear to be on the increase and are particularly strong in smokers and those who have never tried vaping.
Lead researcher Dr Leonie Brose, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, said that most smokers still believe that nicotine is the main toxicant in cigarettes. “Tobacco cigarettes kill over half of those who smoke long-term, yet very few people know that nicotine is not the direct cause of smoking-related death and disease. We found those people who think nicotine is to blame for harms from smoking are more likely to think e-cigarettes and NRT are just as bad as smoking.”
When asked about the relative harms of e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes only 57.3% of the participants correctly said that vaping is less harmful than smoking. Sadly, 21.8% said that vaping and smoking are equally harmful, 3.3% said that e-cigarettes are more harmful and 17.6% said that they didn’t know. As for NRTs, 63.4% of the participants said that they are less harmful than smoking.
Not only is misinformation not decreasing, but it’s increasing
In 2012, 66.6% of the surveyed participants had said that vaping was less dangerous than smoking, decreasing to 60.4% in 2014 and 57.3% in 2017.
Tragically, previous research from the same team suggests that not only is the proportion of people with accurate knowledge not increasing, but on the contrary it is dropping. In 2012, 66.6% of the surveyed participants had said that vaping was less dangerous than smoking, decreasing to 60.4% in 2014 and 57.3% in 2017. At the same time, the proportion of people who think smoking and vaping are equally harmful is rising, from 9% in 2012 to 16.9% in 2014 and 21.8% in 2017.
“It is possible that smokers may not try e-cigarettes or NRT due to inaccurate beliefs about nicotine and vaping. A lot of public discussion and media reporting focuses on harms from vaping, but we rarely see any reports on how deadly smoking is – 1500 people die from smoking-related illness every week in England alone,” said Dr. Brose. “Correcting misperceptions around nicotine may help smokers move towards less harmful nicotine delivery methods,” she added.
Despite the PHE’s efforts, there is still a long way ahead
Responding to this study, Tobacco Control Lead at Public Health England, Martin Dockrell, said that despite the organization’s efforts, clearly there is still a long way ahead. “There is still work to do to reassure smokers that vaping, while not risk free, is much less harmful than smoking. If you smoke, switching to an e-cigarette could save your life.”
In the meantime, a shocking new film released by the health organization two weeks ago, gives a good indication of the amount of toxic chemicals and tar that an average smoker inhales per month, in comparison to those inhaled by a non-smoker or a vaper.
Read Further: EurekAlert!