Research from King's College London has found that smokers and ex-smokers in the United Kingdom overestimate the harm from vaping, with fewer than 6 out of 10 accurately believing that e-cigarettes (ECs) are less harmful than conventional cigarettes.
The study, funded by Cancer Research UK and published in the journal Addiction, used an online Ipsos Mori survey of 1720 UK smokers and ex-smokers.
More than 57.3% of respondents perceived ECs to be less harmful than cigarettes, while 21.8% believed ECs were equally harmful, 3.3% believed ECs were more harmful and 17.6% did not know. For nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), 63.4% said it was less harmful than smoking. Just over a quarter perceived ECs to be less addictive than conventional cigarettes, and 32.2% thought replacing smoking with ECs reduced health harms a great deal.
Knowledge about nicotine was poor, with nearly 9 out of 10 misattributing a greater portion of the risk in smoking to nicotine, and nearly 4 out of 10 wrongly believing nicotine is what causes cancer from smoking. Smokers who had never vaped were more likely to have misperceptions about nicotine and the relative harm of ECs and NRT compared with tobacco cigarettes.
“Misperceptions of the relative harms of EC and NRT compared with smoking tobacco cigarettes need to be targeted in public awareness campaigns and policy. In particular, public awareness campaigns should differentiate the role of smoke constituents other than nicotine in causing the main health harms (cancer, heart attacks, stroke) from the role of nicotine in continuing the addiction, yet not having the same main health harms,” the authors said.