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Study shows change in perception of e-cigarettes

Public view of relative harms of e-cigarettes versus cigarettes changed since 2018.

An American Cancer Society-led study released June 9 shows US adults’ perception of electronic or e-cigarettes as “more harmful” than cigarettes more than doubled between 2019-2020, while the perception of e-cigarettes as “less harmful” declined between 2018-2020. The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM).

The study also found that increase in cigarette smoking prevalence (2019-2020) was restricted to those who perceived e-cigarettes as “more harmful” than cigarettes, while increases in prevalence of e-cigarette use was restricted to those who perceived e-cigarettes as “less harmful” than cigarettes. Researchers examined data during the COVID-19 pandemic and EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury) epidemic. 

The study was led by ACS principal scientist, risk factors and screening surveillance research Dr. Priti Bandi

“While this study showed sharp changes in public perceptions of e-cigarette vs. cigarette harms during EVALI and COVID-19, the more relevant finding for public health is that increases in cigarette smoking and e-cigarette use prevalence occurred primarily in individuals who perceived their preferred product as relatively less harmful,” Dr. Bandi said in a news release on the study. “This suggests that public perceptions of e-cigarettes vs. cigarettes harms influences population tobacco use patterns.”

Dr. Bandi stressed the importance of increasing effective public health communication and behavioral interventions to help consumers make good health choices. This communication must stress that no youth or young adult should begin using any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes. Messaging for smokers must stress the effectiveness of FDA-approved cessation medications and counseling to completely quit smoking, while no e-cigarette has been approved as a tobacco cessation product.

Dr. Stacey Fedewa is senior author of the study. ACS authors include Dr. Samuel Asare, Dr. Anuja Majmundar, Dr. Nigar Nargis, and Dr. Ahmedin Jemal.

For more information on the study please review the complete study or read ACS’s position statement on e-cigarettes.

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