Misperceptions about vaping common among UK smokers

January 03, 2019

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.'
-end-


King's College London

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.