In 2023, to say that misinformation is all too easy to find is akin to saying that water is wet, but when it comes to vaping, there are two active perceptions of e-cigarettes portrayed by health organisations, political groups and media outlets that simply cannot both be true at the same time.
In 1935, whilst chatting with Albert Einstein, physicist Erwin Schrodinger proposed a thought experiment involving a box, a radioactive material and a flask of poison.
This experiment, known as Schrodinger’s Cat, proposes that whilst the box is closed and sealed, the cat is somehow both alive and dead until the box is opened and the answer is determined for certain.
Whilst this thought experiment focuses on quantum theory, the concept has surprising resonance to the vape supplier, as the same official groups claim that vaping is both a revolutionary way to quit smoking and simultaneously a social menace that must be banned.
This contradictory view of a type of smoking cessation product that has helped people to quit in significant numbers is not only impossible to ideologically harmonise, but it is also leading to dangerous misinterpretations about the relative safety of vaping.
The Ultimate Lie
In a commentary for the journal Addiction, Dr Brian King and Dr Benjamin Toll lamented that the people who stand to gain the most benefits from switching to vaping believe that it is worse for them.
A survey published in the same journal noted that four-fifths of respondents believed that cigarettes had fewer harmful chemicals than vapes, a stark example of the power of misinformation given how objectively untrue this is.
Similarly, Dr Toll noted that doctors had told him with the greatest of intentions that vaping is worse than smoking, a statement commonly repeated but one that is evidently untrue, as a growing body of evidence suggests that vaping is at least 95 per cent safer than smoking cigarettes.
Worse The Devil You Know
One of the biggest reasons why such a misconception exists is that unlike tobacco, where the dangers are exceptionally well-known and have been for decades, e-cigarettes are relatively new and have constantly evolved over the past two decades since the invention of the modern vape in 2003.
This is something that will, over time, sort itself out as a body of evidence develops that confirms what a lot of suppliers and users already know about vaping; it is a safer nicotine delivery system to cigarettes that works as a stop-smoking treatment when patches and gum are not effective.
It is essential to always discuss vaping in the context that it is much safer than smoking, because as we have unfortunately seen, the people most likely to be swayed by misinformation claiming vaping is more harmful than it is are current smokers, the people who often benefit most from vaping
More Holistic Support
The “Swap to Stop” initiative is a very good example of the power of a wider support network to help smokers quit, and providing as many options and routes to obtain vapes are essential, as every smoker will have different needs.
Some people will benefit from a starter kit, others will benefit from starting with disposables and others still will start with the prescription vape and gradually find out what works for them best. All of these approaches should be supported within the industry and in public health organisations.