4 in 5 adults still believe vaping is more harmful than smoking cigarettes

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Vaping isn’t exactly healthy, as many studies show there are no safe tobacco products. However, it’s still a safer alternative in comparison to traditional cigarettes. Surprisingly, a recent survey finds that a mere 20 percent of respondents think e-cigarettes have fewer harmful chemicals than cigarettes.

In other words, four in five adults seem to erroneously believe vaping is actually more harmful to health than cigarettes. Notably, this misperception is so common it even persists among some healthcare providers who may not realize where these products fall on the scale of smoking risk.

“It breaks my heart that I’ve met with a lot of well-intentioned physicians who say to me, ‘Vaping is worse than smoking.’ And I say, ‘No, that’s not true,’” says MUSC Hollings Cancer Center’s Benjamin Toll, Ph.D., director of the MUSC Health Tobacco Treatment Program and co-director of the Lung Cancer Screening Program, in a media release.

In response to personal experiences, as well as the recent survey describing these misperceptions, Toll teamed up with Brian King, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to write a commentary published online in the scientific journal Addiction.

Teens vaping and blowing smoke
(© aleksandr_yu – stock.adobe.com)

The commentary recommends that public health professionals keep two goals in mind. First, to educate adults who smoke about the relative risks of various tobacco products. However, it’s equally as important that any outreach effort is developed and implemented while keeping in mind the second goal: to prevent the use of any tobacco products by minors.

“I want to be crystal clear that I am very opposed to vaping by minors,” Toll clarifies. “Youth use of any tobacco product is unsafe, and outreach strategies must not inadvertently make it seem like e-cigarettes are okay for youth to use.”

For current smokers looking to quit, researchers first suggest using FDA-approved medications and/or tobacco treatment counseling to kick the habit. Of course, plenty of smokers have tried these approaches already. For these individuals, transitioning completely to e-cigarettes could be a less harmful – though still not completely safe – route to quitting.

The key word here is completely. To reap the most health benefits, smokers who use e-cigarettes should make a clean break from cigarettes. Earlier studies have found that people who both vape and smoke have similar levels of toxins in their bloodstream as people who smoke only cigarettes. To be clear, the researchers say the end goal for everyone should be to stop using all tobacco products. Again, there are no safe tobacco products.

The dangers of combustible cigarettes are well documented. Cigarettes can cause a dozen types of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Still, Toll is concerned that many well-intentioned doctors may be advising patients to move from e-cigarettes to combustible cigarettes, wrongly thinking that e-cigarettes are more harmful.

While it’s true that there is still a lack of long-term data regarding the health effects of e-cigarettes, and e-cigarettes are not FDA-approved smoking cessation devices, the research team still asserts that vaping generally entails fewer harmful chemicals than combustible cigarettes.

In conclusion, the study authors call for the public health community to use evidence-based approaches in its existing channels to better educate adults who smoke about the relative risks of various tobacco products. However, it’s also key that such efforts coincide with strategies aimed at preventing youth tobacco use.

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About the Author

John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

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