A new study by researchers at London South bank University has looked into vaping health warnings on e-cigarette packaging. The Study aims to uncover whether the messaging is too severe and if it is deterring smokers from trying vaping.
The compulsory warnings on vape packaging have previously been criticised for being unnecessarily brash. E-cigarettes are designed as a safer alternative to smoking however the current messaging arguably makes them seem just as harmful. This is supposedly to deter non-smokers from taking up vaping, however this research shows that it may also be deterring smokers from trying e-cigarettes.
Importantly, the study found that a new packaging message would not encourage smokers to take up vaping without making them more attractive to non-smokers.
Vaping health warnings research
The research was conducted between December 2018 and January 2019 and included 2495 UK participants. The participants were asked to rate how they felt about e-cigarettes before and after viewing two different warnings.
One message stated “This product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance. It is not recommended for non-smokers”. After reading this health warning the respondents believed e-cigarettes to be more harmful than they had previously believed.
The second message read “use of this product is much less harmful than smoking”. This message minimised the perception of harm only in that of smokers. It also increased smokers’ likelihood of purchasing an e-cigarette, according to the study.
The authors of the study wrote:
“Because current (EU) messages focus on the absolute risks of nicotine use, they may actually deter use in smokers and undermine the potential of e-cigarettes to assist a change in smoking behaviour.
“Whilst reducing appeal amongst non-smokers is clearly desirable, effective health messaging should communicate risks without discouraging smokers.”
E-cigarettes are now the UK’s most popular quitting aid. A study, earlier this year showed that they help between 50,000 and 70,000 smokers quit every year. However, with over 7 million people still smoking in the UK, a lot more can be done to help vaping reach it’s full potential.
Whilst regulation is important for the industry, it must be sensible and balanced. Policy makers may be more inclined to air on the side of caution but by doing so they could unwittingly be stifling a huge public health opportunity.
Professor Lynne Dawkins, lead researcher, said:
“Ultimately, if more smokers switch to e-cigarettes, there will be fewer smoking-related deaths and diseases.”
Criticism of current warnings requirements
The current requirements for vaping health warnings came under fire at the time they were introduced, back in 2016. The TPD insists that ‘all electronic cigarettes must have a warning, covering 30% of each of the two largest surfaces of the pack’. The warning must read “This product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance”.
The particularly bemusing aspect of this regulation is that this message must be added to electronic cigarettes even if in the form they are abought, do not in fact contain nicotine. Amid the new study, the researchers have urged the government to re-evaluate the health warnings.
Totally Wicked welcomes this piece of research form London South bank University. As more and more evidence builds up to back e-cigarettes as an effective cessation aid, sensible regulation is imperative to help vaping flourish.
Smoking rates in the UK are at their lowest since records began, but the final 14.4% of the population are recognised as being stubborn, hardened smokers. More pro-active policies can help give these smokers the support and resource they need so we hope regulatory officials take all reliable vaping research on board.