Researchers evaluating e-cigarette use among young Americans are upset teens view the devices as safer than cigarettes and are more likely to vape than smoke.
The University of Louisville conducted a study in April investigating teen attitudes towards vaping and how they view the habit compared to smoking. Researchers based the analysis off YouTube videos of young people talking about e-cigarettes and found the main factor influencing teens to buy vape devices is the perception they are far less harmful than combustible cigarettes, reports Vaping Post.
That perception is based on a growing body of studies showing vaping is a safer alternative to smoking, which the researchers call “inconclusive.” They argue research showing the devices reduce harm to the user and those around them is misinformation that is confusing the public, particularly teens, about the alleged dangers of using e-cigarettes.
“This comparison perpetuates a narrative that e-cigarettes are safe because they are ‘healthier’ or ‘safer’ than other traditional tobacco products,” the researchers said in their paper, according to Vaping Post. “There is a need for ‘anti’ e-cigarette videos on YouTube, especially ones targeted at youth, to more accurately convey current scientific understanding about the safety of these products.”
Major health groups in England, like the Royal College of Physicians, agree that using e-cigarettes eliminates most of the harms attributed to smoking. They also recommend vaping to patients trying to quit traditional tobacco products. The U.K.’s Department of Health released a policy paper on e-cigarettes July 18, backing the devices as a useful tool to quit smoking and eliminate second hand risks to the public.
It also advises local lawmakers to differentiate between the levels of harm caused by cigarettes compared to electronic devices in their smoke-free policies, acknowledging there is a marked difference between vaping and smoking on a person’s health.
“To be clear, this paper is suggesting that e-cigarette promotional videos are inaccurately asserting that vaping is safer than smoking,” Dr. Michael Siegel, a public health expert, recently said on his blog. “In other words, the paper is clearly calling for public health practitioners to lie to our nation’s youth by telling them that vaping is no safer than smoking or by hiding the fact that vaping is much safer than smoking.”
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