The Secret To Fixing The Public Perception Of Vaping
New research indicates that comparative risk messages are very effective at getting people to quit smoking
The public perception of vaping has long been one of the biggest things holding the industry back. Despite the countless smokers who credit vaping as what helped them finally end their dependence on tobacco, most legislators, and public health officials have been much more skeptical regarding the harm reduction tool. As a result, polls indicate that only around 13% of adults recognize that vaping is a lot safer than smoking, with at least twice as many people thinking vaping is just as bad, if not worse.
Luckily this trend may finally be reaching its end, as the tide has started to shift over the last couple years. There is an ever-growing pile of peer-reviewed evidence that concludes vaping is an extremely valuable smoking cessation and harm reduction tool. In fact, brand new research out of Georgia State University found comparative risk messages are proving effective, especially when more emphasis is placed on the dangers of smoking.
The New Report
The team of researchers was led by Dr. Lucy Popova of the GSU Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science. They set out to gain a better understanding of how health agencies could best handle and educate the public about the risks of e-cigarettes when compared with combustible tobacco. To do this they gathered a group of over 1,400 respondents and asked their impression of one of three different styles of comparative risk messages. The first just outlined the differences between vaping and smoking, the second did that as well, but also went more in-depth about the risks of smoking, and the final type of message was the control. The respondents were randomly given one of these types and then asked about their perception of the risks of vaping.
After collecting all of their data, the team concluded that both styles of comparative risk messages had the desired impact on respondents. This included decreasing their intentions to smoke, increasing intentions to switch, and improved understanding that vaping is much safer than smoking. Also encouraging was the fact that neither type of message increased the intention of dual-use, as opposed to smoking cessation or entirely switching. But likely the most critical finding of the report is that the comparative risk messages placing extra focus on the dangers of smoking fostered a much higher level of self-efficacy to quit smoking than CR messages that did not. The team concluded that CR messages with more negative anti-smoking elements are particularly likely to be effective.
The Growing Evidence
This latest report is fantastic news for those working toward educating the public about the benefits of vaping. But what really makes it work is the growing mountain of evidence that makes it hard to deny the value. Last fall, a team of researchers out of the University of Louisville tested all of the most common smoking cessation methods, from cold turkey all the way through prescription quit aids, and determined that vaping was the single most likely tool to lead to a successful quit attempt.
If that wasn’t enough of a reason to give vaping a chance, we also have plenty of proof that e-cigarettes are dramatically safer than smoking. The first of the large-scale studies that strongly support the harm reduction value of vaping was conducted by Public Health England back in 2015. Their massive inquiry eventually determined that while not harmless, vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. Bolstering these claims was a study from last fall which indicated the excess lifetime cancer risk of a smoker is around 57,000 times higher than a vaper.
Education is the key to improving the public perception of vaping. If we didn’t know that for sure before, we can say with relative certainty now that this is the case. Helping people understand just how much different vaping and smoking are is one of the most important things we can do to improve the understanding of e-cigarettes. After all, if most people believe that vaping and smoking are basically the same, then why would anyone every seriously consider making a switch?
The bottom line is that if we want vaping to be accepted and legitimized by legislators and public health officials, we must first work to improve the number of people that understand how much safer it actually is. It’s only once we can fully support vaping that we will start to rapidly reduce the number of people who are diagnosed or die from preventable, smoking-related diseases. If we want to see a world free from smoking, it’s up to us to start the trend and teach our peers about the benefits of e-cigarettes.
Are you surprised that the public perception of vaping is so weak? Do you agree that comparative risk messages are one of the best ways to educate the public? If more people understand the benefits of vaping, do you think the smoking rate drop even faster? 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.