But researchers note they can help smokers quit even if they're not risk-free
THURSDAY, Oct. 27, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- The percentage of American adults who believe that electronic cigarettes are as bad as tobacco cigarettes has tripled in recent years, a new study finds.
Researchers analyzed the responses of nearly 16,000 adults who took part in national surveys conducted in 2012, 2014 and 2015 by the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science at the School of Public Health at Georgia State University.
The percentage of smokers who said e-cigarettes posed an equal or greater health threat rose from nearly 12 percent in 2012 to 35 percent in 2015. In addition, the percentage who thought e-cigarettes were addictive rose from 25 percent to nearly 57 percent over that time period, the findings showed.
Similar trends occurred among nonsmokers, according to the study.
"Although the impact of long-term use of e-cigarettes on health is still unknown, the available scientific evidence indicates that e-cigarettes are less harmful than combustible cigarettes, and that smokers switching to e-cigarettes could benefit from a decrease in health risks related to smoking combustible cigarettes," the researchers wrote.
"The findings underscore the urgent need to convey accurate information to the public, especially adult smokers, about the available scientific evidence of the harm of e-cigarettes compared to combustible cigarettes," the authors added.
"Our public health messages should accurately convey to cigarette smokers that switching completely to e-cigarettes would reduce their risks even if e-cigarettes are addictive and not risk-free," study co-author Michael Eriksen said in a university news release. Eriksen is dean of the School of Public Health at Georgia State and a tobacco-control expert.
The research was published online Oct. 26 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about e-cigarettes.