Just one in twenty Americans (5.3 percent) understands that using vapor products is much less harmful than smoking. That shocking number comes from 2015 data collected by the National Cancer Institute’s Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS).
Just as frightening, 37.5 percent think that vapor is either just as harmful, more harmful, or much more harmful. An honest 33.9 percent said they didn’t know enough to answer the question. Obviously, the number who really don’t know is much higher — since we know that both Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians have estimated the risk at about five percent that of smoking cigarettes.
The question asked in the survey was, “Compared to smoking cigarettes, would you say that electronic cigarettes are…” and offered seven choices: much less harmful, less harmful, just as harmful, more harmful, much more harmful, I’ve never heard of electronic cigarettes, and I don’t know enough about these products.
It's getting worse
In 2013, 9.8 percent of respondents thought vaping was much less harmful. That’s almost a 50 percent drop in just two years — from an already shockingly low number. Since 2013, the number that believe vaping is much more harmful has climbed about 20 percent.
In 2015, just 25.9 percent of the US population believed e-cigarettes are either less harmful or much less harmful than combustible cigarettes. That number has dropped from 39.8 percent in 2013. The survey looked at a representative sample, then estimated the percentages for the whole population.
Poisoning the well
The campaign to paint e-cigarettes as risky or harmful has been a roaring success. Between calls for caution (“We just don’t know enough”) and outright fear-mongering (formaldehyde, popcorn lung), the zealots are winning the knowledge war. They can’t stand the idea of something that looks like smoking being a solution to the smoking problem, and they’re willing to poison the well of public information to keep the comfortable system they’re used to.
Meanwhile, the public doesn’t understand the truth, and smokers continue to get sick and die.