Media Misinformation On Vaping May Be Scaring Smokers ‘Away From E-Cigarettes’
More adults are experimenting with vapor products than ever before, but regular use of e-cigarettes is declining, a new study shows.
The research, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reveals the number of adults surveyed, who vape on a daily or near-daily basis, declined from 3.7 percent in 2014 to 3.2 percent in 2016. The portion of adults in the U.S. who have tried a vape, however, increased from 12.6 percent in 2014 to 15.3 percent in 2016, Axios reported.
No firm conclusions can be drawn and more research is needed, but some harm reduction experts are suggesting the decline in long-term vaping may be the result of aggressive misinformation tactics of tobacco controllers and their allies in the media, researchers said. (RELATED: Vaping Advocates Stress Nicotine Not The Enemy In Fight Against Smoking Deaths)
“Given the misinformation and fear tactics employed by so-called U.S. public health groups, it should not be surprising that some smokers are being scared away from e-cigarettes,” Tony Abboud, executive director of the Vapor Technology Association, told Axios.
Tobacco’s impact on health is determined by the delivery method, which is combustion in the case of cigarettes. The vast majority of disease-causing chemicals — up to 95 percent — are only released when burning cigarettes, according to Public Health England. This is why smokeless tobacco products and e-cigarettes greatly reduce the health risks associated with smoking.
Clive Bates of Counterfactual, a public interest consultancy and advocacy group, recently noted that among the general population, “those incorrectly believing e-cigs were just as harmful or worse than cigarettes had risen from 39.8 percent to 55.4 percent” — between 2013 and 2017 — according to Dr. Brad Rodu in Tobacco Truth.
Misconceptions regarding vaping are even more “disheartening” among active smokers, who have the most to gain from embracing alternative smoking technologies, Rodu, a professor of medicine at the University of Louisville and associate fellow with the R Street Institute, said.
The number of smokers who believe vaping is safer than smoking rose from 38 percent to 57 percent between 2012 and 2013; however, that number plummeted back down to only 38 percent in 2017, according to data from the National Cancer Institute’s Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS).
Meanwhile, smokers who perceived vaping as either equally harmful or worse than combustible cigarettes rose from 34 percent in 2013 to 53 percent in 2017. As a result, the number of former smokers who actively vape decreased from 6.3 million in 2014 to 4.1 million in 2016, according to the latest available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Smokers are the unfortunate victims of this irresponsible crusade,” Rodu said in Tobacco Truth. “These are the people whose lives will be shortened if they don’t quit.”
Efforts to spread misinformation on alternative smoking options that minimize their benefits simply deny smokers less harmful options while tacitly encouraging them to keep using a more dangerous product, public health advocates said.