Latest poll numbers show a growing gap in public perception of vaping in the two countries
Vaping has long been the victim of bad publicity. Ever since it first rose to prominence almost ten years ago, many legislators and health organizations have warned of potential risks of long-term use. While officials around the world shared these concerns at first, the preceding ten years of solid research indicating the relative safety of e-cigarettes has seen some countries evolve their position more than others. Unfortunately for smokers in countries like the US and especially Australia, their legislators have deemed vaping has harmful and repeatedly likened the smoking cessation tool to a mere alternative tobacco product. The result is a much smaller percentage of people hear about the real benefits of vaping, let alone trust them.
This problem is amplified when you take a look at a country that has done everything right. The prime example in regards to incorporating vaping into existent harm reduction and smoking cessation policies is the United Kingdom. The UK has seemingly always been at the forefront of vaping rights, and the latest numbers show this has had a positive effect on the public perception of vaping. Researchers found that only around 5% of Brits currently believe that vaping is much more dangerous than smoking. Meanwhile, the rest of the world lags behind.
The UK Poll
This latest poll was conducted by UK based organization YouGov and asked over 2,000 British adults about their perception of the risks of vaping. The results were clear, only 5% of those surveyed believed that vaping was much more dangerous than smoking while 43% said vaping was both a safer and healthier habit. Another impressive result was that only 21% said they didn’t have an opinion, indicating a dropping number of adults who aren’t familiar enough with the subject to have an opinion. Other noted patterns included that only 41% of women agreed that vaping is much safer, compared with 46% of men, and that those active on social media had a better understanding of vaping.
These numbers indicate a significant rise in public perception over the last couple of years. A 2016 survey conducted by UK based Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) found that only 13% of respondents felt that vaping was much safer than smoking, while over twice that many people said vaping was just as bad, if not more dangerous. That means the number of people who think vaping is much safer rose by 30% from 13% all the way to 43%.
Public Perception Elsewhere
A poll taken in America the same year as the ASH study had some very different results. The survey was conducted by the Gallup organization, well known as the premier pollster in the US. They found that around 50% of Americans believe that vaping poses a severe threat to public health, while 60% said they supported the idea of the FDA’s deeming rules classifying e-cigarettes as a tobacco product. They also found that 33% of adults believed that vaping was just as bad or worse than smoking. But likely their most significant result was that only 19% of American daily vapers understand just how much safer than smoking vaping is.
As bad as things may seem in the US, Australia is going above and beyond to be an enemy of vapers. Their laws are some of the strictest in the world, requiring not only a prescription but also a specialist chemist who is able to store and supply the nicotine e-liquid. The punishment for failing to meet these requirements is either a substantial fine or even jail time. Their neighbor New Zealand also had stringent laws on vaping, but recently they decided to allow vaping to be legalized for adult use, leaving some hopeful that Australia will follow suit.
One thing that simply must happen before vaping can reach its full potential as a smoking cessation and harm reduction tool is a more significant portion of the general population buying in. Some think that we don’t need support from government agencies or non-smokers, but the truth is that without widespread support, vaping rights will continuously be on the verge of being destroyed by encroaching regulations. Furthermore, laws won’t change until more people back them as necessary changes. Vaping is still negatively viewed in many parts of the world, but the UK is showing the rest how it’s done. It all starts with education of the facts. Lack of information is what leads so many to assume that vaping and smoking must be similar in risk. So if we hope to end the smoking epidemic altogether eventually, it’s critical that we support vaping for its numerous benefits.
Do you think that the shift in public perception in the UK is a good sign for the rest of the world? Is it important for non-smokers to understand the benefits of vaping? How can we get more support from legislators and public health officials? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.