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What drives public perceptions of e-cigarettes? A mixed-methods study exploring reasons behind adults' perceptions of e-cigarettes in Northern England

Arshad, Humairah; Jackson, Sarah E; Kock, Loren; Ide-Walters, Charlotte; Tattan-Birch, Harry; (2023) What drives public perceptions of e-cigarettes? A mixed-methods study exploring reasons behind adults' perceptions of e-cigarettes in Northern England. Drug and Alcohol Dependence , 245 , Article 109806. 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2023.109806. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Despite growing evidence that e-cigarettes are likely less harmful than cigarettes, perceptions of equal or more harm have increased worldwide. This study aimed to identify the most common reasons behind adults' perceptions of the (i) relative harm of e-cigarettes compared with cigarettes and (ii) effectiveness of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation. METHODS: Adults (N = 1646) from Northern England were recruited through online panels from December-March 2017/2018, using quota sampling to guarantee socio-demographic representativeness. Qualitative content analysis of open-ended responses was performed with codes representing reasons for a given perception about e-cigarettes. Percentages of participants who gave each reason for each perception were calculated. RESULTS: 823 (49.9%) participants agreed that e-cigarettes were less harmful than cigarettes, 283 (17.1%) disagreed, and 540 (32.8%) were undecided. The most common reasons for agreeing that e-cigarettes were less harmful than cigarettes were that they produce no smoke (29.8%) and fewer toxins (28.9%). Those who disagreed were most concerned about a perceived lack of trustworthy research (23.7%) and safety issues (20.8%). Lacking knowledge (50.4%) was the most common reason for being undecided. 815 (49.5%) of participants agreed that e-cigarettes were an effective smoking cessation aid, 216 (13.2%) disagreed, and 615 (37.4%) were undecided. The most common reasons participants gave for agreeing were related to e-cigarettes being successful smoking replacements (50.3%) and advice from family, friends or health professionals (20.0%). Respondents who disagreed were most concerned about e-cigarettes being addictive (34.3%) and containing nicotine (15.3%). Lacking knowledge (45.2%) was the most common reason for being undecided. CONCLUSIONS: Negative perceptions of e-cigarette harm were driven by concerns about a perceived lack of research and safety issues. Adults who viewed e-cigarettes as ineffective for smoking cessation feared that they perpetuate nicotine addiction. Campaigns and guidelines that address these concerns may help promote informed perceptions.

Type: Article
Title: What drives public perceptions of e-cigarettes? A mixed-methods study exploring reasons behind adults' perceptions of e-cigarettes in Northern England
Location: Ireland
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2023.109806
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2023.109806
Language: English
Additional information: © 2023 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: Addiction, E-cigarettes, Harm perceptions, Nicotine, Smoking cessation
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Behavioural Science and Health
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10166853
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