A Majority Of Adult Smokers Now Believe Vaping Is More Hazardous To Their Health Than Cigarettes

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter
  • New research shows 57 percent of adult smokers think vaping products carry the same risks as combustible cigarettes.
  • Misconceptions about e-cigarettes are even higher among the overall population.
  • Public health experts fear millions of smokers’ lives are being jeopardized by false information.
  • Research suggests a lack of education over the impact of burned-tobacco versus nicotine is driving the confusion.

WARSAW, POLAND — Adult smokers in the U.S. are increasingly misinformed about the health impacts of vaping when compared to combustible tobacco, believing the products are equally or more dangerous than cigarettes.

An analysis released by Fontem Ventures Friday at the fifth annual Global Forum on Nicotine in Warsaw reveals a majority of adult smokers have no idea alternative smoking technologies carry a fraction of the risk posed by combustibles. Using data from the U.S. Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study, researchers found the share of adult smokers who believe vaping is as harmful or even more harmful than cigarettes rose from 43 percent in 2013 to 57 percent in 2015.

“It’s concerning that despite a growing body of scientific evidence that vaping is less harmful than smoking, smokers who may benefit from switching to e-cigarettes are not getting the message,” Dr. Grant O’Connell, manager of corporate affairs at Fontem Ventures and lead researcher of the analysis, said in a statement Friday.

The study from Fontem Ventures, makers of the popular e-cigarette brand, blu, suggests the proliferation of anti-vaping media coverage along with a lack of guidance from leading health groups and government regulators is causing increased confusion among smokers. Public health experts, dismayed by the latest data, fear the continued spread of misinformation regarding vapor products is putting millions of lives in jeopardy. (RELATED: Media Immediately Spins CDC Data Showing No Vaping Increases Among Teens)

“The statistics that smokers think vaping is equally or more dangerous than smoking is a failure of public health,” Cynthia Cabrera, president of The Cating Group, a consulting and advocacy firm focused on vapor issues, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “These organizations say they are protecting public health while smokers are walking around thinking an alternative that is 95 percent less harmful is equally as harmful. Their views have not caught up with technology. The fact that you cannot trust government or these organizations to provide accurate, unfiltered data is incredible.”

Misconceptions regarding e-cigarettes are also spiking among the overall adult population in the U.S., according to the analysis. Researchers said the PATH data shows those who believe vaping is equally or more hazardous to a user’s health than cigarettes rose from 54 percent in 2013 to 65 percent in 2016.

The findings add greater context to a recently published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showing 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. Harm reduction experts suggest the decline in long-term vaping may be the result of aggressive misinformation tactics by tobacco controllers, federal arms like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and their allies in the media.

“You get government entities like the CDC actively misleading people,” David Sweanor of the Center for Health Law, Policy and Ethics at the University of Ottawa told TheDCNF. “The idea that government can be good for you is being dismissed by evermore people, but how do you defend the status quo when you’re saying to people trust our government institutions, while smokers say, ‘they are lying about something that has a very high probability of killing me.’ Why would I believe them on anything else? That’s how people end up seeing governments when you have health departments actively misleading people when it’s easy now to verify the information.”

Sweanor, who fought against the Big Tobacco companies in the 1990s, says efforts to confuse the public about vaping are a blatant violation of public health ethics. He says the public disconnect among smokers on vapor products ultimately comes down to a lack of education on the differences between burned-tobacco and nicotine.

Tobacco’s impact on health is determined by the delivery method, which in the case of cigarettes is combustion. This is why smokeless tobacco products and e-cigarettes greatly reduce the health risks associated with smoking. Nicotine, on the other hand, is more comparable to caffeine, a mildly addictive but legal stimulant found in a wide variety of products.

Misinformation about nicotine may be keeping smokers who want to quit from utilizing proven cessation products that contain it, including e-cigarettes, out of fear of developing serious health conditions, public health experts say. They argue it is essential that government health bodies and scientists properly inform adult smokers about alternatives to cigarettes if society is serious about ultimately eradicating the deadly habit.

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