Perception of harm of e-cigarettes vs. cigarettes changing, study finds

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Perception of harm of e-cigarettes vs. cigarettes changing, study finds

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Researchers have found that the public’s perception regarding the safety of e-cigarettes versus cigarettes is changing. (Photograph: NeydtStock/Shutterstock)

Thu. 4. April 2019

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ATLANTA, U.S.: The issue of e-cigarettes and their health risks has always been contentious. In a recent study, researchers from Georgia State University School of Public Health have found that an increasing number of American adults believe e-cigarettes are as or more harmful to health than cigarettes are.

Speaking about this change in perception, lead author of the study and Associate Professor of Health Management and Policy Dr. Jidong Huang said the results of the study might be connected to consumers’ concerns about the risk of addiction or the uncertainty about e-cigarettes’ long-term health effects. “It may reflect the emergence of new evidence of substantial risk of heart and lung diseases associated with e-cigarette use, as well as high levels of pulmonary toxicity in e-cigarettes. But these concerns should always be considered in comparison to the massive harm of continued smoking,” explained Huang.

In the study, researchers analyzed self-reported perceived harm of e-cigarettes relative to cigarettes from 2012 to 2017 using two national surveys: the Tobacco Products and Risk Perceptions Survey (TPRPS) and the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS), which included responses from 5,000 and 3,000 American adults, respectively.

According to the study’s results, in 2017, more than 40 percent of American adults who participated in the TPRPS believed that e-cigarettes were as or more harmful than cigarettes. In the 2017 HINTS, more than 60 percent of respondents believed that e-cigarettes were as or more harmful than cigarettes. The study observed that TPRPS data showed the proportion of adults who perceived e-cigarettes as being less harmful than cigarettes decreased from 39.4 per cent in 2012 to 33.9 per cent in 2017. HINTS data showed a more marked decrease: from 50.7 per cent in 2012 to 34.5 per cent in 2017. During the same period, TPRPS data showed the proportion of adults who perceived e-cigarettes to be as harmful as cigarettes increased from 11.5 per cent to 36.4 per cent, while HINTS data showed an increase from 46.4 per cent to 55.6 per cent.

The study also found that a quarter of American adults in 2017 were still uncertain about how e-cigarettes and combustible cigarettes compared with regard to health risks, even though e-cigarettes had been in the U.S. marketplace for more than a decade.

In a recent Dental Tribune International article, it was reported that researchers found that e-cigarette users develop some of the same cancer-related molecular changes in their oral tissue as cigarette smokers do, a finding that is also adding to growing public health concern.

Speaking about the results of his study, Huang said that it underscored the urgent need for accurate communication of the scientific evidence on the health risks of e-cigarettes to the American public.

The study, titled “Changing perceptions of harm of e-cigarette vs cigarette use among adults in 2 US national surveys from 2012 to 2017,” was published online in JAMA Network Open on March 29, 2019.

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