In the face of CDC intransigence on EVALI, researchers at Rutgers University are calling for “behavioural and policy responses” to address misperceptions about nicotine vaping.
During the summer of fall of 2019, thousands of news stories were written about what came to be known as e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI), which caused serious lung injuries in over 2800 people in the USA. As evidence continued to emerge linking these injuries and deaths to illicit tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) vaping products containing the thickening agent vitamin E acetate, the CDC sat back and waited months to admit that only poorly manufactured THC vaping products could definitively be linked to EVALI. Two-plus years later, even in the face of a letter from public health professionals pleading for corrective action, the CDC continues to refuse to clear nicotine vaping products as a potential cause of EVALI.
A team of researchers led by Olivia Wackowski, an associate professor at the Rutgers Center for Tobacco Studies within the Rutgers University School of Public Health, set out to examine American adult smokers’ EVALI awareness, knowledge and perceived impact on their e-cigarette interest approximately 16 months after its peak. The authors surveyed 1018 current adult smokers in January and February 2021.
Results of the study were recently published in the journal Tobacco Control:
Approximately 54% of smokers had heard of EVALI. Among those who had heard of EVALI (n=542), 37.3% believed its main cause was e-cigarettes used to vape nicotine, like JUUL. Fewer (16.6%) thought the main cause was products for vaping marijuana/THC, and 20.2% did not know. About 29% had heard vitamin E acetate was associated with EVALI, and 50.9% indicated EVALI made them less interested in using e-cigarettes in the future. EVALI awareness was significantly associated with e-cigarette risk perceptions (ie, that e-cigarettes are as harmful as smoking).
The authors conclude that this data shows a “considerable lack of knowledge” about the true cause of EVALI among those who smoke and encourages corrective actions to address the misperceptions that nicotine vaping has been shown to cause serious lung injuries.