A UK study has identified that between 2014 and 2019 there was a 9.5% decline in the proportion of smokers who endorsed the belief that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes.

The study aimed to find out whether changes in harm perceptions among tobacco smokers correlated with changes in the frequency of e-cigarette use in England.

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The researchers surveyed 16,567 smokers aged 16 and above (the legal smoking age in the UK is 18) and found there was a decline in the number of tobacco smokers using e-cigarettes during this time period, from 19.1% to 15%.

The proportion of cigarette smokers remained stable throughout the study period.

The authors of the study, titled ‘Association between changes in harm perceptions and e-cigarette use among current tobacco smokers in England: a time series analysis’, stated that the findings may reflect smokers’ concerns about the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes, amplified by media reports focusing on the health risks of e-cigarettes or graphic depictions of e-cigarette explosions.

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“Our results highlight the need for an increase in media portrayals and public health campaigns focusing on the reduced health harms by switching from combustible tobacco to e-cigarettes and a reduction in alarmist media coverage of events,” it said.

Meanwhile, other findings also showed that there was no significant association between this belief and the use of e-cigarettes between those aged 16 and 24, and in women.

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