By The Numbers: Consumer Perceptions About E-Cigarettes

11.22.16

E-cigarette use is on the rise. Despite manufacturer claims that e-cigarettes are safer than smoking tobacco, the health effects of these products are still relatively unknown.

But consider this: preliminary research suggests that e-cigarette use may serve as a gateway for youth to other tobacco products. And a troubling report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that youths who regularly use e-cigarettes are more likely to take up smoking, and are more likely to develop habits of heavy cigarette usage.

While early evidence is compelling, it may take time to fully understand the long-term impacts of these new products and their potential impact on tobacco use. To help inform strategies aimed at tobacco prevention and cessation, CVS Health surveyed more than 2,200 registered voters about e-cigarettes.

E-Cigarettes Seen as Less Harmful Than Traditional Cigarettes

Our poll showed that 58 percent of respondents believe e-cigarettes are harmful, while 31 percent believe they are a safer alternative to regular cigarettes. When asked their opinion about why people choose to use e-cigarettes, 29 percent said as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes for those addicted to nicotine, and 27 percent said as a less dangerous option compared to tobacco.

E-Cigarette Use Among Young People is on the Rise

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that while cigarette smoking is at an all-time low for high school students since 19911, more than 2.3 million high school students and 620,000 middle school students currently use e-cigarettes.2  In the CDC’s 2012 and 2014 National Youth Tobacco Surveys, nearly two-thirds of U.S. teens surveyed believe that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes, and nearly half believe they are less addictive.

More Research, Education is Needed

The poll results reveal a possible disconnect between peoples’ perceptions of e-cigarettes and the initial research findings on their safety. We remain committed to broadening the public’s understanding of the risks of tobacco use in any form.

One way we’re doing this is through Be The First, our five-year, $50 million initiative that supports education, advocacy, tobacco control and healthy behavior programming. Our goals include doubling the number of tobacco-free college and university campuses in the U.S., so in November 2016, The American Cancer Society and the CVS Health Foundation awarded grants to 20 schools as part of the Tobacco-Free Generation Campus Initiative. This $3.6 million, multi-year program is intended to accelerate and expand the adoption and implementation of 100 percent smoke- and tobacco-free campus policies.

To learn more, visit www.cvshealth.com/social-responsibility/be-the-first.

1 Stephen M Amrock, Lily Lee, Michael Weitzman, “Perceptions of e-Cigarettes and Noncigarette Tobacco Products Among US Youth.” Pediatrics Nov 2016.
2 Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0380.pdf