Even vapers trust the CDC and FDA most to tell the truth about vaping risks and benefits.
Vaping is much safer than smoking. Along with the Royal College of Physicians and Public Health England, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently released a report saying it too. We aren’t at the point where we can be absolutely certain about the precise level of risk, but the evidence is quite clear that vaping is substantially safer than smoking.
So why doesn’t the public know it? Research from the U.S. and the U.K. shows that most people don’t know that vaping is safer than smoking. Even more troubling, the perceptions of risk are moving in the wrong direction.
It’s a pretty sorry state of affairs, but a new paper may shed some light on the issue. The research looks at who people trust when it comes to information on vaping, as well as how that links to their worldviews, their views on how dangerous vaping is, and whether they vape.
The study shows that people trust the CDC, health experts and the FDA most, raising important questions about whether they’re doing enough to make sure the public understands the crucial facts about vaping.
Spoiler: they really aren’t doing enough.
The public, at large, theoretically trusts the right people but in practice is actually getting it totally wrong.
The paper starts out with an important point: information about the risks of vaping is contradictory, to say the least. On one hand you have vapers, manufacturers, and even tobacco companies saying that vaping is much safer than smoking, and on the other hand public health groups have wildly varying views, from positive to skeptical to outright hostile.
For the individual trying to assess the risk, it’s widely known that who they trust matters. You go with what you view as the most reliable source to save yourself the hard work and be more likely to get what you think will be the right answer.
So the researchers set out to figure who people saw as the most reliable sources of information. They used data from a 2015 survey of risk perceptions and tobacco products, and ended up with a sample of 4,415 adults representative of the U.S. population.
They asked them to rate their level of trust in health experts and scientists, the FDA, the CDC, tobacco companies, vaping companies, vape store employees, and the media when it comes to the health effects of vaping.
They also asked them about their worldviews (because people with an individualistic or hierarchical worldview are usually more likely to favor sources endorsing low risk), their vaping and smoking status, how dangerous they think e-cigarettes are, whether they’ve seen advertisements for vaping products, and some general demographic information.
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