ASCO Survey: E-Cigarettes Are Widely Misperceived as Harmless Among Young Adults

OncologyLive, Vol. 20/No. 20, Volume 20, Issue 20

Findings from a national survey show that vaping is not only more common but also more favorably perceived among younger age groups than older adults.

Findings from a national survey show that vaping is not only more common but also more favorably perceived among younger age groups than older adults, with 1 in 4 young people indicating their belief that vapes are “harmless” and not addictive.

Conducted by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the National Cancer Opinion Survey collected responses from 4001 individuals ≥18 years and organized answers by age group: Generation Z (18-22 years), millennials (23-28 years), Generation X (39-54 years), Baby Boomers (55-72 years), and the Silent Generation (≥73 years). ASCO asked respondents to say whether they agree or disagree with each of the following statements: “Flavored e-cigarettes are less damaging to your health than nonflavored e-cigarettes”; “You can’t get addicted to e-cigarettes”; and, “E-cigarettes are harmless.”

Millennials had the highest rates of accordance with each of the claims across all age groups, followed closely by Generation Z respondents. At 24% and 20%, respectively, millennials and Generation Z were more likely to agree that e-cigarettes are harmless (Figure). Further, 22% of Generation Z participants and 24% of millennials agreed that e-cigarettes are not addictive. Additionally, 27% and 29%, respectively, felt flavored vapes were less deleterious than their nonflavored counterparts. Those ≥39 years were less likely to hold these misconceptions, the ASCO survey said.

Responses showed that roughly 1 in 5 young adults uses e-cigarettes routinely or recreationally, despite the US Surgeon General’s warning that the products contain addictive and potentially harmful elements. Millenials (21%), Generation Z (18%), and Generation X (15%) had the highest rates of regular e-cigarette use, whereas only 1% of the Silent Generation and 5% of Baby Boomers said they smoked e-cigarettes every day. Overall, 1 in 8 Americans (13%) routinely smoke e-cigarettes.

The poll was conducted from July 9 to August 10, 2019. It notably predated the CDC’s investigation into severe e-cigarette—associated respiratory illnesses and subsequent deaths, initiated on August 17.

Figure. Rates of Agreement With Survey Statements

As of August 10, 71% of Americans supported FDA regulation of e-cigarettes.

National survey reveals one in five young adults regularly uses e-cigarettes and believes they are harmless, not addictive. ASCO. Posted online September 24, 2019. Accessed October 18, 2019. bit.ly/2mXLmPx.

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