New survey shows a muddled, confusing public perception of vaping

A newly released survey of over 1,000 Americans sheds new but somewhat confusing light on the public’s perception of vaping as a tobacco harm reduction tool.  The research involves the asking of several multiple-choice questions where the respondents were contacted either by phone or email. Conducted through the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) of the University of Chicago, the survey entitled the AmeriSpeak Spotlight on Health is already attracting skepticism regarding its potential accuracy.

Some of the individual questions and answers might appear to be intentionally or accidentally misleading.  For example, one of the questions asks, “Even if neither is exactly right, which of the following statements best describes what you think about access to e-cigarettes?”  The respondent is instructed to choose the “best” of four possible responses.

      1. “Access to e-cigarettes should be limited because those who would not have used regular cigarettes are using these products and becoming addicted.”
      2. “Access to e-cigarettes should be broad because these products are safer than regular cigarettes and can help people quit smoking regular cigarettes.”
      3. “Don’t know”
      4. “Skipped”

77 percent of those surveyed selected Answer A.  What’s confusing is that access to vapor products is already “limited” because websites and vape shops are required to ask for proper age identification from their potential consumers before purchase.

Related Article:  New study suggests loosening (not tightening) vaping regulations benefits public health

So by selecting Answer A, is the respondent saying that the current federal vaping regulations are sufficient?  Or is the selection of Answer A indicating the respondent’s belief that harsher regulations should be implemented?  In either case, the selection of Answer B would not apply.  The specific wording of the questions and answers makes the survey results somewhat unclear.

Other highlights of the NORC vaping survey include the following

  • 35 percent believe that flavored e-liquids should be readily available for the general public. An even split of another 35 percent believes they should be abolished.  And 29 percent are “not sure.” 
  • 55 percent of respondents support federal restrictions on the sales of flavored vapes compared to only 16 percent who oppose them. Do they want more regulations or are they happy with the regulations that are already in place?  The answer is unclear.
  • 78 percent want harsher restrictions geared toward teen vapers.
  • 56 percent “strongly support” additional federal regulations and limitations of the nicotine levels in vapor products.
  • 39 percent want to see a total nationwide ban on all vapor products, flavored or otherwise, including vaping technology. Similar legislation is currently being proposed at the local level in the city of San Francisco.
  • 42 percent believe that teens who vape are using e-cigs as an alternative to combustible cigarettes (smoking).
  • However, another 43 percent agree that teens who vape would otherwise never smoke a conventional tobacco cigarette.

These survey results are far from conclusive.  If anything, the general public seems to be just as confused as ever about vaping versus smoking.  Their views on teen vaping specifically are also rather disturbing and perhaps living proof that the FDA’s teen-vaping-is-a-national-epidemic campaign is indeed working to turn the general public against e-cigs.  In a press release about the NORC vaping survey, Senior Vice President Caroline Pearson issued the following statement.

“Americans are particularly concerned about teens becoming newly addicted to e-cigarettes, and they support a range of actions the federal government could take to make vaping products less available, less addictive, and less appealing. Commissioner Gottlieb has taken tangible steps to regulate the vaping industry. Whether or not these efforts continue, however, rests on the priorities of the agency’s next commissioner.”

Numerous public health experts have recently begun sounding the alarm that these conspiracy theories about teen vaping are simply not based on scientific evidence.  In fact, much of the available published data indicates that a significant majority of vaping teens engage in e-cig use only a few times per month as opposed to daily vaping.

Yet, public health agencies like the FDA and the CDC continue to engage in intentionally misleading, anti-vaping rhetoric that miseducates the general public.   Unfortunately, millions of Americans still mistakenly believe that the United States is in the midst of a national teen vaping health crisis that simply does not exist.

Related Article:  Federal regs expert: FDA conspiracy to kill vaping is intentional and ‘epidemic’

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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