Over a third of smokers in the UK believe that e-cigarettes are equally or more harmful than combustible tobacco, a new survey shows, despite evidence suggesting they carry significantly fewer health risks.
A poll conducted by the Foundation for a Smoke Free World (FSFW) found that 36 per cent of Britons said they were unclear about the risks associated with vaping products.
The 2019 Global State of Smoking Poll surveyed over 54,000 adults across seven countries, evaluating current smoking behaviours and use of alternative tobacco products, as well as beliefs and perceptions regarding the harmfulness and addictiveness of varying tobacco products.
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It found a growing misperception across the world that e-cigaettes were not better for your health than smoking regular cigarettes.
According to FSFW’s previous poll in 2017, an average of 50 per cent of smokers around the world believed that e-cigarettes were less harmful than traditional tobacco products.
However, the latest poll suggests that the number of smokers holding this belief has dropped by 5 to 14 per cent overall in the United States, United Kingdom, South Africa and Japan.
India was the only country surveyed to report an increase in the number of smokers who thought vaping posed less of a health risk than combustible tobacco.
E-cigarettes have become increasingly popular in recent years, although there has been conflicting advice on the impact they have on health following a number of fatalties in the US.
Deaths in the US were linked to a rare lung disease known as Evali. It is understood that those dying from the illnesses had been using cannabis-based oil products.
Dr Derek Yach, president of FSFW, blamed misinformation in the media for the increase in the number of people who believe that e-cigarettes are just as harmful as regular cigarettes.
“Despite the growing body of evidence that alternative nicotine products such as electronic cigarettes pose significantly less risk than combustible products, public perceptions are moving in the opposite direction,” added Dr Yach.
“Sensational media coverage and targeted efforts by those opposed to tobacco harm reduction are distorting the facts and keeping many of the world’s one billion smokers from making better choices for their health.”
Public Health England (PHE) has previously said there is widespread consensus, including from the Royal College of Physicians, Cancer Research UK, the British Medical Association and the US National Academy of Sciences, that while not without risk, vaping is far less harmful than smoking.
In the UK, e-cigarettes are tightly regulated for safety and quality. Official NHS guidance states that vaping is “far less harmful than cigarettes” and can help smokers quit tobacco.