The US Food and Drug Administration acknowledges that nicotine and tobacco products exist on a continuum of risk, with e-cigarettes likely to be less harmful than combustible cigarettes because of their lower production of toxicants and carcinogens.
However, many smokers in England and the US believe that e-cigarettes are at least as harmful to health as combustible cigarettes. These misperceptions likely dissuade smokers who are unable or unwilling to stop using nicotine from switching to e-cigarettes, which may have a detrimental effect on population health.
The recent US outbreak of vaping-associated lung injury (EVALI) received extended news coverage worldwide. Most cases were associated with inhalation of vitamin E acetate, an additive found in some tetrahydrocannabinol vaping devices. However, news reports often failed to distinguish tetrahydrocannabinol devices from standard nicotine-based e-cigarettes, which may have increased confusion about the relative harms of different nicotine products.
This study examined the extent to which perceptions of the harm of e-cigarettes compared with combustible cigarettes changed among smokers after the EVALI outbreak.
Harry Tattan-Birch, Jamie Brown, Lion Shahab – JAMA Network – June 15, 2020.