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The Public is Being Misled About Vaping

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A recently published study in JAMA Network, an online research publication, shows some startling statistics regarding the public's perception of vaping and e-juice. While the majority still understands the truth about vaping being safer than smoking, it seems that the majority is shrinking. In today's blog, we're going to cover the ins-and-outs of this study and cover what we think it means for vaping and the public.

The Study

The study, titled "Changing Perceptions of Harm of e-Cigarette vs Cigarette Use Among Adults in 2 US National Surveys From 2012 to 2017", focused on survey data of US adults and their perceived harm of vaping vs. smoking traditional cigarettes. The goal of the researchers was to measure the change in perception over time between the years 2012 to 2017, so they used survey data from each of those years to get their answers. The survey data was accumulated through a series of questions in two different surveys, the first being the Tobacco Products and Risk Perceptions Surveys (TPRPS), and the second being the Health Information National Trends Surveys (HINTS). 

In the TPRPS, US adults were first asked, "Have you ever heard of e-cigarettes/electronic vapor products?" and if their answer was "yes", they were asked the follow-up question, "Is using e-cigarettes/electronic vapor products less harmful, about the same level of harm, or more harmful than smoking regular cigarettes?" However, in the HINTS, US adults were asked the following question, "Compared to smoking cigarettes, would you say that electronic cigarettes are... much less harmful; less harmful; just as harmful; more harmful; much more harmful; or I've never heard of electronic cigarettes. Based on the responses to the above questions from these two surveys, the researchers for this study gathered and analyzed the data; here's what they found.

The Data

The percentage of adults polled in the TPRPS that perceived e-cigarettes to be less harmful than smoking cigarettes dropped from 39.4% in 2012 to 33.9% in 2017. During the same time period, the percentage of adults that perceived e-cigarettes were equally as harmful as cigarettes tripled from 11.5% in 2012 to 36.4% in 2017. Before we go any further, this number is quite disturbing. While the FDA and Anti-Vaping groups have certainly played a role in the negative perception of vaping, so has the Media and other outlets. That a product proven to be 95% safer than cigarettes is perceived as equally dangerous by the general product is not only baffling, it's concerning. Okay, onto the next. From 2012 to 2017, the percentage of adults who thought e-cigarettes were more harmful than cigarettes more than tripled from 1.3% to 4.3%. Although this number is far smaller than those who believed them to be equally harmful, it may actually be more concerning. This increase in misguided surveyees shows that not only is fear-mongering making a difference, but it's also beginning to have an adverse effect from its intention. It's clear that the FDA has a vested interest in pushing an anti-vaping narrative, but the fact that their misleading data and public statements are now having a negative effect on public health, which, by their own title, is literally the only thing they should be concerned about.

Similarly, the HINTS data showed that a decreasing percentage of adults believe that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional combustible cigarettes, dropping steeply from 50.7% in 2012 all the way to 34.5% in 2017. Alarmingly, of those surveyed, 55.6% believed e-cigarettes were as harmful as cigarettes, up from 46.4% in 2012. This means that more than half believed there was no difference in harm between the two products. That's outrageous. And, again, due to misleading campaigning and fearmongering from influential groups and the FDA. Finally, the percentage of US adults that believed e-cigarettes were more harmful than cigarettes also more than tripled from 2.8% to 9.9%...that means 1 in 10 people surveyed thought vaping was more harmful. Let that sink in. While the Royal College of Physicians in England shows that vaping is an estimated 95% safer than smoking (and might be closer to 99%), we've got adults in the United States that think the exact opposite. Why? Let's get into the conclusions drawn by the researchers.

The Conclusions

Here's a perfect microcosm from the study, "Our findings underscore the urgency to convey accurate risk information about e-cigarettes to the public, especially to adult smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit smoking, and therefore could benefit most by switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes. Public health messages may be beneficial by appropriately balancing the emphasis on the potential reduction in harm in completely switching to e-cigarette use compared with continued smoking and an accurate interpretation of the absolute harm of e-cigarette use." Nailed it. Could not have said it better.

If government agencies and so-called "public health advocates" were legitimately interested in improving public health, they would be equally alarmed by these findings, and would take urgent action to correct the misled public. However, that does not seem to be in their interest. Whether deliberate or completely subconciously, these groups have successfully changed the hearts and minds of potentially would-be quitters into perceiving not only incorrect information, but potentially life-threatening falsehoods.

This is why we need to advocate. This is why we need to fight for public health. If we don't, who else will?

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