Ending the vaping misperception epidemic for the sake of public health

Is vaping more or less harmful than smoking, and can it contribute to improved public health? Despite its apparent simplicity, this question divides parliaments, journalists, and tobacco control activists, even though the answer is straightforward: vaping is less harmful than smoking and represents a game changer for public health.

The Misperception Epidemic

According to research conducted by Ipsos for the think tank “We Are Innovation”, an astonishing 74% of smokers worldwide mistakenly believe that vaping is as harmful or more harmful than smoking. This widespread misunderstanding, fueled by misinformation, potentially prevents millions from switching to a safer alternative like vaping. A recent UK study supports this, noting that “harm perceptions do predict subsequent vaping and smoking behaviour.”

Since accurate information is the cornerstone of effective public health policy, it’s essential that smokers have access to the truth about safer alternatives. Unfortunately, many so-called health organisations contribute to the spread of misinformation. These organisations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), have perpetuated this misperception epidemic with misleading statements. In just the last six months, the WHO has disseminated misleading information about vaping and nicotine on more than ten occasions, including unfounded claims that vaping causes cancer and that vapes often contain more toxicants than cigarettes.

The WHO’s misguided focus on vaping and other safer nicotine products, instead of the real threat—smoking—keeps smokers from making the healthier switch. This is not just misguided; it’s dangerous.

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