A study, conducted by King’s College London and funded by Cancer Research UK has explored the misperceptions that surround vaping. Public Health England (PHE) states that vaping is 95% safer than smoking and this figure has been maintained numerous times.

While this figure is well-known in the vaping world, the results from this recent piece of research suggest that the message still isn’t being recognised by all smokers. According to the study, fewer than 6 out of 10 smokers or ex-smokers accurately identify vaping as being healthier than smoking.

The research was conducted on 1720 participants consisting of smokers and ex-smokers. 57.3% of these correctly believed vaping to be less harmful than smoking. However, a worrying 21.8% of participants thought vaping was equally as harmful as smoking. 3.3% thought vaping was more harmful and the remaining 17.6% said they didn’t know.

This therefore suggests that 1 in 4 smokers or ex-smokers wrongly believe that vaping is as harmful or more harmful than smoking. With 6.1 million people in the UK still smoking there is a huge missed opportunity to educate these smokers on the relative safety of vaping and allow them to make an informed decision.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Leonie Brose said: “It is possible that smokers may not try e-cigarettes or NRT due to inaccurate beliefs about nicotine and vaping. A lot of public discussion and media reporting focuses on harms from vaping, but we rarely see any reports on how deadly smoking is—1500 people die from smoking-related illness every week in England alone. Correcting misperceptions around nicotine may help smokers move towards less harmful nicotine delivery methods.”

What more can be done?

As vaping companies are heavily regulated in terms of advertising it’s difficult to communicate to the wider audience. This is where government and health organisations are particularly important.

As 2018 drew to a close, PHE released a hard-hitting video to show the effects of cigarette smoke compared with e-cigarette vapour. Powerful messages like this are vital to help correct these misperceptions and we welcome more and more research.

Prof John Newton, director of health improvement at PHE said,

“It would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about safety,”

“We need to reassure smokers that switching to an e-cigarette would be much less harmful than smoking. This demonstration highlights the devastating harms caused by every cigarette and helps people see that vaping is likely to pose only a fraction of the risk.”