Cancer Research UK Survey Shows Smokers Worryingly Overestimate the Risk of Vaping

Research funded by Cancer Research UK has shone a light on the destruction misinformation and fearmongering is having on the public’s opinion on vaping. 

The weekly survey running since 2006 to track smoking patterns and inform stop-smoking policies has issued some rather alarming data pertaining to the UK public’s views on tobacco harm reduction tools. 

According to CRUK, fewer smokers up and down the country now see vaping as a less harmful alternative than their deadly counterpart: combustible cigarettes. 

Despite numerous scientific studies and even the NHS and the UK Government backing the smoke cessation devices, new information from a 28,000-participant survey is visibly showing the devastating shift in mindset.

The latest set of results found that 57 percent of UK-based current smokers between 2014 and 2023 believed vaping to be just as harmful if not more so.

In 2014, it was reported that 44 percent of smokers thought vaping was less harmful than smoking, with 11 percent voting for more harmful and 30 percent believing it was just as harmful as combustibles. 

However, based upon the latest sweep of data published in the journal JAMA Network Open, CRUK found that the number of those convinced vaping to be more harmful has risen to 23 percent. 

This increase has undoubtedly worried experts and the vaping community as the mission for a smoke-free future slowly drifts further from reach… 

One of the researchers – Dr Sarah Jackson, from University College London – said:

“These findings have important implications for public health.

“The risks of vaping are much lower than the risks of smoking – and this isn’t being clearly communicated to people.

“This misperception is a health risk in and of itself, as it may discourage smokers from substantially reducing their harm by switching to e-cigarettes.

“It may also encourage some young people who use e-cigarettes to take up smoking for the first time, if they believe the harms are comparable.

“Better communication about the health risks is needed so that adults who smoke can make informed choices about the nicotine products they use.”

Simon Clark – Director of the smokers’ group Forest – added: 

“Government is partly to blame for the confusion because banning disposable vapes and threatening to severely restrict the display and packaging of e-cigarettes is hardly the best way to promote a reduced risk product that has helped millions of smokers to quit.

“Furthermore, is it any wonder that smokers are confused about the perceived risk of vaping when the message coming from government and the public health industry is that the only people who should vape are adults who want to quit smoking, and no-one should vape long-term or recreationally.”

Whilst the study didn’t delve into why these changes in the public’s perception are happening, Action on Smoking and Health Chief Executive Deborah Arnott believes ‘scare stories’ could be to blame. 

In particular, young people and underage vaping could be the driving force behind the growing worry and misconception among adult smokers that vaping is more or just as risky as smoking. 

Deborah Arnott said:

“The tragedy is that as a result many smokers may carry on smoking when they could have quit, continuing to put themselves at serious risk of cancers, respiratory and heart disease, followed by premature death.”

Prof Jamie Brown, also from University College London, said:

“E-cigarettes are novel and so have attracted much attention in the media, with news articles often overstating their risks to health compared with smoking.

“There is relatively little reporting about deaths caused by smoking, even though 75,000 people die as a result of it in England each year.

“The government plans to offer one million smokers a free vaping starter kit alongside behavioural support to help them quit.

“This initiative may be undermined if many smokers are unwilling to try e-cigarettes because they wrongly believe them to be just as harmful as cigarettes or more so.”

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