Adult Population Perception of Harm from E-Cigarettes Relative to Smoking 2013-2017, Great Britain

Knowledge•Action•Change (2018)

- No Fire, No Smoke: The Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction

Most consumers get their information about SNP (and other health issues, climate change and so on) from the media and friends. Given the extent and focus of media reporting, it is perhaps unsurprising that many people are confused or concerned about SNP. The real concern for harm reduction is that perception of the risk of SNP is actually increasing; more people think (incorrectly) that SNP are as dangerous as cigarettes. In a global survey conducted by the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, a majority of those polled in 11 of the 13 countries surveyed thought nicotine more harmful to general heath than alcohol, sugar, fat and salt while all those surveyed believed the nicotine in e-cigarettes presented a risk of heart disease and a range of cancers.

In Great Britain, despite the well-publicised findings (cited below) from PHE and the RCP about the relative safety of e-cigarettes, the stop smoking charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) found that perceptions of harm concerning e-cigarettes worsened between 2013 and 2017. Over time more people thought that e-cigarettes were more or equally as harmful as smoking, and fewer people thought that they were a lot less harmful.

This infographic refers to the perceptions of e-cigarette safety amongst the population in general, but as ASH stated, more worrying is the worsening perception among smokers:

“The poor understanding among smokers in general about the relative harms of e-cigarettes compared to smoking is of concern […]. The proportion of smokers who think e-cigarettes are just as, or more, harmful than smoking has increased significantly from 9 percent in 2013 to 22 percent in 2017. […] Smokers who have never tried e-cigarettes are less likely to accurately believe they are a lot less harmful than tobacco smoking than smokers who are currently using e-cigarettes. Among smokers who have never tried an e-cigarette, one in three (30 percent) believe e-cigarettes are more or equally harmful as smoking. This is a view that has grown over time among smokers who have not tried an e-cigarette with 25 percent holding this opinion in 2016.”

In the USA, the perception among smokers that e-cigarettes were as, or more harmful than, cigarettes jumped from 11.7 percent in 2012 to 35 percent in 2015 while a belief that e-cigarettes were addictive went from 25.3 percent to 56 percent.

See also p. 61 of the report: No Fire, No Smoke: The Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction 2018 — Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction (gsthr.org)

Adult Population Perception of Harm from E-Cigarettes Relative to Smoking 2013-2017, Great Britain

Adult Population Perception of Harm from E-Cigarettes Relative to Smoking 2013-2017, Great Britain

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