Most adults in England wrongly think vaping is worse or as bad as smoking - study

Pedestrians pass a vape shop in London, Monday, January 29, 2024.
Pedestrians pass a vape shop in London, Monday, January 29, 2024. Copyright Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Photo
Copyright Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Photo
By Euronews
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Vaping is not risk-free but is less harmful than cigarette smoking, according to the UK's National Health Service (NHS).


More than half of smokers in England inaccurately think that vaping is more or as harmful as cigarette smoking, according to a new study.

The study included survey responses from more than 28,000 smokers in England between 2014 and 2023.

Some 57 per cent of respondents thought vaping was more or equally as harmful as smoking, while 27 per cent thought e-cigarettes were more harmful.

“The risks of vaping are much lower than the risks of smoking and this isn’t being clearly communicated to people,” said Sarah Jackson, lead author and principal research fellow at University College London.

“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," she added.

The findings were published in Jama Network Open and funded by Cancer Research UK.

The researchers also found that the perception of e-cigarettes has worsened over time. In 2014, only 11 per cent of smokers said they were more harmful than cigarettes.

How harmful is vaping?

The researchers said this view increased amid reports in the US of lung injuries associated with the use of e-cigarette or vaping products.

Laboratory data, however, showed that the cases were linked to vitamin E acetate, an additive in THC-containing e-cigarette or vaping products, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The study's authors said that more research is needed into the factors that caused people to think vaping was more or as harmful as smoking.

According to the National Health Service (NHS), nicotine vaping is not risk-free but is "substantially less harmful than smoking".

"We only recommend it for adult smokers, to support quitting smoking and staying quit," the NHS added.

There have been concerns about the rise in vaping among young people especially. One study in the US found that some 14 per cent of high school students reported e-cigarette use and that many did not know that vaping products contain nicotine.

The CDC also notes that young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to start smoking.

The UK is banning the sale and supply of disposable vapes due to their appeal to young people, including colourful packaging.

"The number of children using vapes has tripled in the last three years and there is strong evidence to suggest that cheap and easy-to-use disposable vapes are partly to blame," the government said.

One limitation of the UCL study was that only current adult smokers were asked about their perception of e-cigarettes so the researchers were "unable to explore changes among nonsmokers or youth".

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