A survey of some 1500 French residents, including 93 vapers, found that 68% of them believed e-cig vapour to be less harmful to the user than cigarette smoke, against 40% of the general population.
A similar split was seen on the question of whether e-cigs can help a smoker quit tobacco, something believed by 69% of vapers but only 31% of the general public – even though a majority of vapers believed themselves to be “very” or “highly” addicted, with 58% placing themselves in one of those categories, compared with 46% of smokers who do not use e-cigs.
A majority of both e-cig users and the general population agreed that secondhand e-cigarette aerosol is less harmful to bystanders than smoke, but again the vapers were much more confident, with 87% of them believing the risk to be smaller against 55% of the general population.
On the specific question of whether vaping could be effective in reducing deaths from one of smoking’s most-feared consequences, lung cancer, vapers were again far more confident than the general population (33% against 12%).
Here 18% of smokers agreed, suggesting that while they are more positive about vaping than the population at large, they remain much less convinced than vapers.
“E-cigarette users appear to have a different view of reality, compared with everyone else,” said Sebastien Couraud, a doctor of respiratory medicine and thoracic oncology at Lyon Sud Hospital and Lyon University Cancer Institute in France, who led the research. “Their reality is elsewhere.”
Couraud, who has been working with colleagues on the impact of smoking status and nicotine dependence on perceptions of lung cancer risk, was speaking at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Chicago.
What This Means: On one level, Couraud’s results are a statement of the crashingly obvious: vapers are happier than non-vapers with the health implications of their habit, because if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be vapers.
There are also some findings we should take with a little caution: for example, non-smokers are not likely to personally understand the ways in which an e-cigarette can substitute for tobacco, and therefore it’s not surprising that they are much more sceptical than vapers on e-cigs’ helpfulness in cessation. And some smokers’ view of the lung cancer question may even be a denial of the risks in smoking, rather than an affirmation of risks in vaping as such.
Still, the research illustrates vividly the divisions in perception of e-cigs – and in terms of practical effect on regulation and the industry, the perception is every bit as important as the science. Bridging these gaps is a big challenge for the e-cig sector, and treating both sides equitably is a no less tough one for regulators.
– Barnaby Page ECigIntelligence staff
Photo: Evil Erin