Research from King's College London finds smokers and ex-smokers in the UK overestimate the harm from vaping, with fewer than 6 out of 10 accurately believing that e-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. Misperceptions appear to be on the increase and are particularly strong in smokers and those who have never tried vaping.
The Cancer Research UK-funded study, published today in the journal Addiction, used an online Ipsos Mori survey of 1720 UK smokers and ex-smokers to assess knowledge about nicotine and perceptions of the relative harms of smoking, e-cigarettes and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).
Lead researcher Dr Leonie Brose, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, said '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% correctly said vaping was less harmful than smoking, while 21.8% said equally harmful, 3.3% said more harmful and 17.6% didn't know. For NRT, 63.4% said it was less harmful than smoking.
Previous research from the same team suggests the proportion of people with accurate knowledge is dropping: in 2012, 66.6% said vaping was less dangerous than smoking, with 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.
While efforts were made to make sure participants represented different demographics, the authors note that the results may not fully represent the general smoking population.
Knowledge about nicotine was particularly poor, with nearly nine out of ten misattributing a greater portion of the risk in smoking to nicotine, and nearly four out of ten wrongly believing nicotine is what causes cancer from smoking.
Smokers who have never vaped were more likely to have misperceptions about nicotine and the relative harm of e-cigarettes and NRT compared with tobacco cigarettes. On the other hand, smokers who had tried vaping or were regular vapers were more likely to say that a very small portion of the health risk in cigarettes comes from nicotine.
Dr Brose said: '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. Correcting misperceptions around nicotine may help smokers move towards less harmful nicotine delivery methods.'
Previous research by the same team found that smokers who perceived vaping to be less harmful than smoking were more likely to try e-cigarettes. The researchers are planning a study to see if it is possible to change smokers' behaviour by correcting their misperceptions about nicotine, smoking and vaping.
Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK's prevention expert, said: 'While nicotine is addictive, it's the cocktail of 5000 different chemicals released during smoking that damages our DNA and can cause cancer. Nicotine products have been proven to help smokers quit and they're most effective when combined with behavioural support from Stop Smoking Services. It's vital that smokers aiming to quit have accurate information to help them find the best way to stop.'
Responding to the new study, Martin Dockrell, Tobacco Control Lead at Public Health England, said: '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.'
Editorial Sourse: EurekaAlert.org
A quarter of smokers say they would not try vaping because they believe it is just as bad for them as cigarettes.
Commissioned by Yorkshire Cancer Research, the survey of 844 smokers and 1,156 ex-smokers found that tobacco users are “suspicious” of e-cigarettes with many saying they had no desire to give vaping a go.
The results revealed that the typical smoker has been doing so for 22 years and has attempted to kick the habit on average four times in their life.
Those that had been unsuccessful identified stress, peer pressure and a lack of support as the biggest reasons for failing to give up.
The research also found that one in 10 ex-smokers managed to quit by taking up vaping instead, saving £337.80 a year on average.
Despite the NHS suggesting that people are four times more likely to give up for good if they receive support from a stop smoking service, 44 per cent believed that going cold turkey was the best method.
The number one reason participants gave for wanting to quit smoking was a lack of money (43 per cent) followed by health reasons (30 per cent).
Other motivators include pressure from family or friends (23 per cent), becoming a parent or grandparent (20 per cent) and the death of a family member or close friend from smoking (16 per cent).
Chief executive of Yorkshire Cancer Research, Dr Kathryn Scott said: ‘Vaping is a great tool to help people quit and it’s 95 per cent less harmful than cigarettes.
‘But everyone is different, so the best way to help you give up is to get support from a local stop smoking service.
The findings follow a study by researchers at Birmingham University which suggested that e-cigarette users could be putting themselves at risk of lung disease.
The study found that liquids in e-cigarettes impede the immune system’s ability to clear the lungs and prevent harmful chemical buildups.
However, the authors did stress that e-cigarettes still have a lower risk of lung cancer than conventional tobacco products.
In 2018, a campaign from Public Health England (PHE) claimed that e-cigarettes are 95 per cent safer than tobacco, revealing that fewer than half of smokers are aware of this fact.
It also claimed that 44 per cent of smokers either wrongly believe vaping is as harmful as smoking or do not know that it poses much lower risks to health.
Dr Shahab, a leading smoking cessation academic and associate professor in health psychology at University College London, previously said: “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.
”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.”
Editorial Source: The Independant