Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, have become popular in recent years largely because they’re seen as a safer alternative to tobacco-based products. But the perception of e-cigs is changing, despite the onslaught of marketing efforts to peg e-cigs as safer, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
“Currently, [government] regulations around marketing and advertising of these products have not caught up with the industry’s efforts to attract new users to these products,” said Eric Ford, co-researcher and professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “So, what you’re seeing are billboards, magazines ads, and even some television coverage that would not be possible for traditional tobacco products.”
The study noted the overall awareness of e-cigarettes had jumped from 77.1 percent in 2012 to 94.3 percent in 2014, meaning more people knew of the product’s availability. Awareness doesn’t always lead to adoption, though. In December, the National Institutes on Drug Abuse stated that the popularity of e-cigs declined, with nearly 13 percent of teens smoking them in the past 30 days compared to over 16 percent the previous year.
The perception that e-cigs were less damaging than traditional cigarettes declined from 50.7 percent in 2012 to 43.1 percent in 2014. Researchers also recognized that among smokers, there was no relationship noted between e-cig awareness and past-year attempts/intentions to quit. However, participants that perceived e-cigs as less toxic were less likely to attempt quitting in the past year.
Ford said the misconception of e-cigs as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes started because it was thought to be water vapor rather than smoke.
However, the vapor that’s inhaled and exhaled from the increasingly popular, flavored e-cigs often contains chemicals that could cause harm.
“If you were just using unflavored e-cigarettes, like some of those produced by the major tobacco companies, there might be some harm reduction,” Ford said. “[However,] many people are buying e-cigarettes, then buying the liquid cartridges that are flavored with all manner of chemicals. It’s not clear what those chemicals carry with them in terms of potential harm.”
A unique harm associated with e-cigarettes is an effect called… (continue reading)