Perception of Harms and Benefits of Electronic Cigarettes Among Adult Malaysian Men: A Comparison by Electronic Cigarette Use and Smoking Status

Summary of Study

Bottom Line: Current users of e-cigarettes are far more likely to perceive e-cigarettes as less harmful than cigarettes and beneficial for quitting smoking, compared with former and never users. Current dual users, e-cigarette users, and conventional cigarette smokers were 8.59 times, 7.87 times, and 1.80 times more likely to perceive e-cigarettes as beneficial, compared to former and never users.

Understanding the potential benefits and/or harm of e-cigarettes among the general public seems to be lagging behind the growing body of e-cigarette evidence in the scientific literature. A sizeable percentage of adult smokers in the United States perceive e-cigarettes to be at least as harmful and addictive as conventional cigarettes if not more so, with similar trends seen in nonsmoking adults. There is a need to closely examine whether e-cigarettes are perceived as harmful or beneficial because these views may influence reasons for using e-cigarettes and have a direct bearing on actual use.

Given the absence of many substances found in conventional cigarettes, current evidence indicates that e-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes. Yet much less is known about the perception of risks associated with the use of e-cigarettes in Malaysia and worldwide. There is a lack of nationally representative data designed to take into account and compare the perceptions held by current, former, and never users of conventional cigarettes and/or e-cigarettes.

This study examined a cross-sectional analysis of a nationally representative sample comprising 1,987 males. There were 950 current, 377 former, and 660 never users of e-cigarettes. Current users were more likely to perceive e-cigarettes as useful in quitting conventional cigarette smoking compared with former and never users.

Respondents who were current dual users, e-cigarette users, and conventional cigarette smokers were 8.59 times, 7.87 times, and 1.80 times more likely to endorse the perception that e-cigarettes are beneficial in aiding and maintaining smoking cessation, reducing the urge to smoke, as a more efficacious substitute for medication for quitting smoking, as a transitional tool in quitting smoking, and in cutting down usage of conventional cigarettes. Younger users were also disproportionately more likely to find e-cigarettes beneficial.

These findings are in line with those from several studies reporting the main reason for e-cigarette use as a means to quit smoking conventional cigarettes, or to aid smoking reduction, particularly among males who are current smokers.

Access the full study here