News Release

US smokers don't believe vaping is less harmful than smoking

Analysis of US PATH data shows US smokers have a poor understanding of the relative harm of e-vapour products compared to smoking

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Fontem Ventures


image: This is vaping. Knowledge of relative risk of vaping versus smoking varies among adult smokers. view more 

Credit: Fontem Ventures B.V.

Warsaw, June 15th - A growing proportion of U.S. adults do not believe that e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking, according to an analysis of the U.S. Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study data from 2013 to 2015 presented today at the fifth Global Forum on Nicotine conference.

The analysis of the latest PATH data (a national longitudinal study of tobacco use among youth and adults in the USA) suggests that the proportion of adult current smokers who believed e-cigarettes were just as, or more, harmful than smoking increased substantially from 43% in 2013 to 57% in 2015.

"It's concerning that despite a growing body of scientific evidence* that vaping is less harmful than smoking, smokers who may benefit from switching to e-cigarettes are not getting the message," said Dr Grant O'Connell, Corporate Affairs Manager at Fontem Ventures, who led the analysis.

In the wider adult population (including non-smokers) the perception was even more skewed with the analysis showing the proportion of the adult population believing that e-cigarettes were as harmful, or more harmful, than smoking increasing from 54% in 2013 to 65% in 2015.

A recent global survey from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World¹, found that among U.S. adult smokers in 2017, 45% believed e-cigarettes were as harmful as or more harmful than conventional cigarettes. Moreover, U.S. consumers believed that using nicotine every day was more dangerous than drinking every day, and that nicotine itself, rather than smoking, was a cause of lung cancer, throat cancer, and heart disease.

"These misperceptions need to be urgently addressed and policy makers should aim to assess why the relative harm of e-cigarettes compared with smoking is misunderstood. In particular, they should focus on how scientific studies are reported to the public," said Dr O'Connell.


Find the results of our analysis of the PATH data

*Findings from several recent clinical studies have shown that smokers who have made the switch to e-cigarettes have significantly lower exposure to carcinogens and toxicants found in cigarette smoke, with reductions largely indistinguishable from complete smoking cessation or use of licensed nicotine replacement products. These include:

O'Connell, G., D. W. Graff and C. D. D'Ruiz (2016). "Reductions in biomarkers of exposure (BoE) to harmful or potentially harmful constituents (HPHCs) following partial or complete substitution of cigarettes with electronic cigarettes in adult smokers." Toxicol Mech Methods: 1-12.

Goniewicz, M. L., M. Gawron, D. M. Smith, M. Peng, P. Jacob and N. L. Benowitz (2016). "Exposure to Nicotine and Selected Toxicants in Cigarette Smokers Who Switched to Electronic Cigarettes: A Longitudinal Within-Subjects Observational Study." Nicotine & Tobacco Research. 19(2): 160-167.

Shahab, L., M. L. Goniewicz, B. C. Blount and et al. (2017). "Nicotine, carcinogen, and toxin exposure in long-term e-cigarette and nicotine replacement therapy users: A cross-sectional study." Annals of Internal Medicine. 166(6):390-400.

¹The State of Smoking 2018: Global Survey Findings and Insights. Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. Available online:

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