New Study Proves Something We’ve Known About Anti-Vaping Messages For Years
Latest research clearly indicates that a major cause of poor public perception of vaping is misleading risk messages
It has been nearly a decade since vaping has stepped into the worldwide market. Since then the industry has seen it’s fair share of disagreements and controversies. The same few debates are happening all across the globe, with each body choosing their own path. The result is that some countries have placed outright bans on the products, while others have accepted and encouraged their use for harm reduction and smoking cessation.
One such vaping regulation requires that vaping products sold in the EU have a label that takes up at least 30% of the packaging. This required label declares that the product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance. The debate about these and similar labels have spawned some important discussions of whether they are encouraging or discouraging for smokers looking to quit. In that vein, a study was recently published that took a look at the effect different types of risk messages have on a smoker’s likeliness to switch to e-cigarettes.
The study, Messages Matter: The Tobacco Products Directive Nicotine Addiction Health Warning Versus An Alternative Relative Risk Message On Smokers’ Willingness To Use And Purchase An Electronic Cigarette, was lead by Dr. Sharon Cox of the Centre for Addictive Behaviours Research at London South Bank University. It was published earlier this week in the Addictive Behaviors Reports journal. Researchers produced a survey of 100 smokers between the ages of 18 and 55, asking their likeliness to utilize e-cigarettes in an attempt to quit smoking. The team then asked their opinion once more after viewing packaging that had either no label, the current EU standard label, or a label that clearly indicates e-cigarettes only have around 5% of the health risks that combustible cigarettes do.
When analyzing the responses in the individual’s likeliness to buy and use the e-cigarettes, the team found that packaging with the standard label was discouraging to the participants, making them less likely to try quitting with e-cigarettes. Alternatively, they also found that messages with comparative risk labels made them much more likely to try quitting with e-cigarettes. That said, researchers also noted more research would need to be done into the wording of the comparative risk labels to maximize their effectiveness. They also suggest that other methods, including a combination of the two, should be studied. The goal of these labels should be to discourage non-smokers from trying them but encouraging smokers to use them for smoking cessation purposes.
It is noted in this study that the use of warning labels is another way of aligning vaporizers with cigarettes. “These are typically borrowed or amended messages from cigarette or smokeless tobacco products.” While these labels are effective at deterring non-smokers from taking up e-cigarettes, they also deter smokers as well. On the other hand, the comparative risk labels used in the study promote the differences between e-cigarettes and combustible cigarettes.
The outside scientific evidence on these differences is staggering. Public Health England published a study in 2015 that found vaping to be 95% safer than smoking. This study has been supported numerous times since it’s publication, including a report last Fall that indicated the excess lifetime cancer risk of a smoker is around 57,000 times higher than a demographically similar vaper. Vaping has also been proven to be the most effective tool for helping smokers quit and stay off of cigarettes. A study out of the University of Louisville found that it was more effective than nicotine gums, patches, and even the latest in prescription drugs.
While the scientific community continues to prove vaping to be substantially safer than smoking, public perception still skews things the other way. Even in this study, they make a note of how “Reasons for these misperceptions may include a general misunderstanding of the harms of nicotine use, as well as the wider impact of negative media reporting. It is possible that health warnings on e-cigarettes may exacerbate these misperceptions by negatively impacting smokers’ beliefs and acting as a deterrent to use in a quit attempt” It’s crucial for smoker’s individual health and the worldwide fight against tobacco that these misperceptions be corrected rapidly.
A lot more studies into the effects of warning labels must be done to find the optimal package that discourages non-smokers from taking up a possibly addictive product while encouraging smokers to opt for a healthy alternative. Understanding how to promote the benefits of vaping without making it seem harmless could make a world of difference in public perception. If vaping is ever to reach its full potential as a smoking cessation and harm reduction tool, we must learn how to walk this line.
Do you think we should be focused on comparative risk messages or not? Do you think finding the proper message is key to encouraging smokers to try them without enticing non-smokers? How do you think we should work to improve the public perception of vaping moving forward? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.