Online Program

How are beliefs about e-cigarette vapor constituents associated with perceived harms of e-cigarettes vapor? An analysis of a national survey of U.S. adults

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Andy Tan, PhD, MPH, MBA, MBBS, Population Sciences Division, Center for Community Based Research, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA
Susan Mello, PhD, Communication Studies Department, Northeastern University, Boston, MA
Ashley Sanders-Jackson, PhD, Stanford Prevention Research Center, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA
Cabral Bigman, PhD, Department of Communication, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Background: Potentially harmful chemicals are detectable in e-cigarette vapor, contrary to advertising and marketing claims that it contains “only water vapor.” We assessed public beliefs about the presence of vapor constituents and their associations with perceived harms of breathing secondhand vapor (SHV).

Method: Online survey of a nationally representative sample of 1449 U.S. adults from October-December 2013. Respondents were asked whether e-cigarette vapor contains only water vapor, contains tar, or contains formaldehyde (response options were true, false, or don’t know). They were also asked if they perceived breathing SHV to be harmful to one’s health, if they were concerned about the health impact of breathing SHV, and comparative harm of breathing SHV versus breathing secondhand smoke (SHS). Multiple regression analyses were weighted to the U.S. adult population and adjusted for demographic covariates.

Results: Between 58-75% did not know whether e-cigarette emissions contained chemical constituents. Age, income, smoking status, ever tried e-cigarettes, and having observed others vaping were significant predictors of one or more belief items. Responding that vapor contains only water vapor and does not contain tar (versus don’t know) was associated with lower perceived harms to health and concerns about health impact of breathing SHV and with lower comparative harm of breathing SHV versus breathing SHS.

Conclusion: Awareness of vapor constituents was low among U.S. adults. Responding that vapor does not contain chemicals was associated with lower perceived harms. These findings suggest a need to provide accurate information about vapor constituents (e.g., using product ingredient labels or public education).

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Communication and informatics
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the level of public beliefs about e-cigarette vapor constituents. Assess potential predictors of beliefs about vapor constituents. Analyze whether beliefs about vapor constituents are associated with perceived harms of breathing e-cigarette vapor. Discuss the implications of these findings on public communication efforts to provide accurate information about e-cigarette vapor constituents.

Keyword(s): Tobacco Control, Survey

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am Assistant Professor in Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health and at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. My research focuses on mediated and interpersonal health information exposure, public health beliefs, and behaviors in the area of cancer prevention and control. I have published peer-reviewed papers on public awareness, perceptions about policies, and exposure to information related to e-cigarettes.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.