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Tackling smoker misperceptions about e-cigarettes using expert videos

1 June 2021

New paper and dataset by Madeleine Svenson, James Green and Olivia Maynard.


Background The pervasive misperception that e-cigarettes are equally or more harmful than combustible cigarettes is a barrier to current smokers switching to e-cigarettes. To tackle misperceptions, public health bodies are using informational videos, although their efficacy is unknown.
Methods In our online study, current UK smokers who do not vape (n=382) were randomised to view either: 1) a Cancer Research UK (CRUK) text-only video; 2) a video featuring leading e-cigarette experts (expert); or 3) a no video control condition, and then completed questions regarding e-cigarette harm perceptions.
Results Compared to the control condition, participants in the CRUK condition and especially those in the expert condition had more accurate harm perceptions of e-cigarettes and had more accurate knowledge of e-cigarette constituents. In the expert condition, 67% of individuals reported they would try an e-cigarette in a future quit attempt, compared with 51% in the CRUK condition and 35% in the control condition.
Conclusions Our findings are encouraging in the face of mounting evidence that e-cigarette misperceptions are increasing. Whilst misperceptions are often characterised as resistant to correction, we find that carefully designed public health information videos have the potential to promote a more accurate, informed view of e-cigarettes and encourage intended e-cigarette use among UK smokers. Importantly, we find this among current smokers who do not vape, a group often reported as having the highest levels of misperceptions and as having the most to gain from accurate e-cigarette perceptions.
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