Quitting smoking is not an easy task, and new research suggests that social media can actually make it even harder because reading misinformation online, even if we know it is not true, can still play a role in the decisions we make.
Smokers deterred by just four tweets
The study looked at the effect that reading misinformation about e-cigarettes on Twitter had on smoker’s willingness to make the switch from smoking to vaping.
2400 adult smokers from the US and UK took part in the online experiment conducted by researchers from Bristol University and Pennsylvania University and funded by Cancer Research UK.
Having been shown tweets with different types of health information they were asked to share their opinions on e-cigarettes, their intention to make the switch from smoking to vaping, and how they perceived their harm relative to smoking.
Surprisingly, the results showed that both US and UK adult smokers were deterred from using e-cigarettes even after exposure to just four tweets saying they were as harmful, or more harmful, than smoking.
Associate Professor Andy Tan of Pennsylvania University says:
“This is the first study to explore the effect of exposure to misinformation about e-cigarette harms on Twitter among smokers. These findings are important because they show that even brief exposure to misinformation about e-cigarettes may be hindering efforts to reduce the burden of tobacco smoking on current smokers in the US and UK.”
“63% of UK adults get health info online”
It has long been recognised that misinformation about the relative harms of vaping in comparison to smoking can be extremely detrimental. A recent Cochrane review found that e-cigarettes are twice as effective as a stop smoking aid than NRTs, so if people are deterred from using them due to misplaced fears of their safety, this could cause many to continue to smoke where they could have quit using an e-cigarette.
The study’s lead author Dr Caroline Wright, of Bristol Medical School, said:
“Health information is commonly accessed online, with recent reports showing around 63% of UK adults using the internet to look for health-related information and 75% of US adults using it as their first source of health information. However, this ease of accessing information comes at a cost as the spread of misinformation can have negative consequences on people’s health choices and behaviour.”
Public Health England have found e-cigarettes to be 95% less harmful than smoking, and the Department of Health and Social Care recently announced that e-cigarettes could be made available on prescription in the UK. However, fighting the misinformation about e-cigarettes must remain a high priority in the fight for a smoke-free future.
If you would like to learn more about e-cigarettes and how they can help with a stop smoking attempt, pop in to your local Evapo store or check out our ‘Switching made simple’ online guide.
At a glance
·Smokers can be deterred from using e-cigarettes by brief exposure to misinformation on social media
·“63% of UK adults using the internet to look for health-related information” (Dr Caroline Wright, of Bristol Medical School)
·E-cigarettes are twice as effective as a stop smoking aid than NRTs