WASHINGTON — E-cigarette companies have been trying for years to rebrand as a public health solution to smoking. Most Americans aren’t buying it, a new survey from tobacco control advocates suggests.

Some 59% of Americans said they do not believe the industry is working to “be part of the solution to reduce the health effects of smoking,” in a survey of 1,200 people conducted by the Truth Initiative and shared exclusively with STAT.

Juul, Vuse, Njoy, and other e-cigarette makers have long insisted that, despite concerns about the impact their products have had on youth rates of tobacco use, they remain an important tool for helping adults quit smoking.

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It’s still not clear if that’s true. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said in 2018 that fully switching from combustible cigarettes to e-cigarettes minimizes exposure to harmful chemicals, but they also found “limited evidence” of the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aide.

Peer-reviewed studies that suggest e-cigarettes are a useful cessation tool have begun to emerge, and leading tobacco companies say they are conducting numerous studies to test whether their products can be used to quit. Vaping companies are planning to submit these studies to the Food and Drug Administration by May, the date by which they must request formal approval from regulators to stay on the market.

The industry has also launched aggressive public relations campaigns to rebrand themselves as a solution to high rates of smoking. Company CEOs have been penning op-eds touting the health benefits of their products and publicly pleading with lawmakers not to overregulate the industry. Philip Morris, the maker of the vapor product IQOS, even launched an “unsmoke” media campaign earlier this year that included a song written by Wyclef Jean.

The new survey, however, suggests the efforts might not be working.

Beyond those who don’t believe the industry’s argument, 77% said they had an “unfavorable” view of the e-cigarette industry, versus 12% that had a favorable view. That’s just 4 points better than the respondents’ view of tobacco companies writ large.

Fifty-five percent of respondents also believe that regulations on e-cigarette makers are too weak.

One prominent vaping advocate wasn’t altogether surprised by the results.

“Since its start, the vaping industry and its adult consumers have been subject to smear campaigns from activist groups and bureaucrats that value prohibition more than helping adult smokers quit,” said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, a pro-vaping advocacy organization. “With polling showing that the majority of Americans still inaccurately believe that nicotine vaping products were responsible for recent illicit THC-linked illnesses and deaths, it is not surprising that similar numbers have negative opinions of the industry.”

Conley added that he hopes as the FDA begins reviewing vaping companies’ applications that the “public opinion will catch up to the science.”

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  • If the vaping industry was serious about people quitting, they would have dose packs that gradually reduced the amount of nicotine over a period of weeks or months. They don’t really want anyone to “quit” per se, they just want people to “switch” to ecigs. And no matter what they might say, they as a company must get new customers to survive. That means young people. Because the current smoking base cannot sustain them forever without fresh blood.

  • I really don’t care as long as people don’t bother me with their addiction. That is, as long as I don’t have to breathe their tobacco smoke, or their annoying flavored vape

  • I tried the vaping thing and for awhile thought I’d beaten the smoking bug, but then I was watching some old movie where just about everyone in the movie was smoking and realized just how much I missed smoking. I went out and purchased my first pack of cigarettes in some time thinking it would be a one time event…No such luck. I gave up trying to quit and have come to the realization that I AM going to die someday from something.. Now in my 60’s I often wonder if my life, should it be extended by quitting would be all that wonderful or will I just become an old, bitter non-smoking curmudgeon walking around telling everyone about the evils of smoking like every other former smoker I’ve ever known.. I suppose there are worse things I could do other than smoking like, say…mass murder? Please don’t refer to me as a second hand mass murderer.. I have enough guilt as is.

  • Vaping does indeed help smokers quit analog cigarettes. I was once a 3 pack a day smoker and switched to vaping 10 years ago with great success. I enjoyed smoking but it was destroying my health with all the chemical poisons that tobacco is laced with.(*monsanto anyone). With vaping I was able to regain my health with juices I made myself, controlling the flavor and nicotine content.
    Today I still enjoy a zero nicotine caramel cappuccino vape along with CBD.
    Vaping is NOT smoking, never was never will be. It is nothing more than a delivery system. There is zero combustion with vaping.
    This is not about the “children” it’s all about GREED! Take a look at who is losing serious revenue when people switch to vaping, states are losing cigarette tax monies which they have already spent before receiving. Big Harma is losing big bucks due to folks getting healthy, quack medicine is losing funds because folks don’t need their services and poisonous prescriptions. Big tobacco is getting hit hard to the point they’ve jumped on the vape wagon.
    It’s really not hard to see thru this bullshit facade that’s being presented here.
    As for the kids that died recently, it’s no different than buying drugs off the street. At least with most vape companies the juice you buy must pass many safety hurdles before it can go to market. The crap on the streets and black market are just that, crap. And sometimes deadly crap at that.
    Vaping is nothing more than water vapor, much like breathing or using a vaporizer or humidifier. Yes, it can be deadly, but then so can water.
    The devil is in the details.

    • You’re not vaping water… you’re vaping an aerosol. E-cigarettes don’t have as many cancer-causing agents as traditional cigarettes, but you’re still inhaling an addictive substance that will do damage to your body — especially your lungs. And yes, you’re “smoking.” All the word-play in the world can’t hide that fact.

  • Love the comments below from the e-cig “advocates” who come out of the woodwork every time to defend their valiant industry against the unfair assaults of the mainstream media, the dangerous practice of asking for safety data, the perfidy of “communists” who want to protect kids from getting addicted to nicotine! Glad to hear Americans on the whole aren’t buying their story of persecution.

  • So because teens are breaking the law by vaping, you punish the adults who aren’t breaking the law? The flavor ban is shortsighted. People will just add the artificial flavoring in at home. It’s used in the food industry so it’s extremely easy to get. You can literally buy it on Amazon. I have a feeling. I have a feeling some teens are going to accidentally poison themselves. Instead of having teens vaping flavored nicotine juice, there’s going to be teens vaping flavored nicotine juice that they make at home or bought from drug dealer. At least vape manufacturers do some quality control. It’s going to be like the black market THC liquid problem. Drug dealers are responsible for dozens of deaths because they were cutting the THC liquid with canola oil. When canola oil is vaporized and inhaled it cools down in your lungs and coats the walls leading to infection. Flavored black market nicotine liquid is going to be way worse. Plenty of vape users are going to go back to smoking cigarettes if the only flavor is tobacco. Usually vape users began vaping to get away from the taste of tobacco. Why settle for an imitation tobacco when they can have the real thing.

    • Preach. Ignorance still sweeping the country and in my state (NJ) – Communist Governor Phil Murphy banned the sale of flavored eliquids. Before I ever bought a bottle of any store brand eliquid – 6 years ago – I learned how to DIY ejuice first. Looks like after i run out of my stash ive hoarded for myself I’m going to have to start brewing my own eliquid again. Gotta love when the states have your true best interests at heart.
      WE KNOW THIS IS NOT ABOUT TEENS OR ANY YOUTH. YOUTH SMOKING IS AT AN ALL TIME LOW. This is about MSA blood money stop beating around the bush.

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