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Over 1 year later: smokers’ EVALI awareness, knowledge and perceived impact on e-cigarette interest


Objectives The e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) outbreak caused serious lung injuries in over 2800 people in the USA in 2019. By February 2020, most cases were determined as linked with vaping tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), including black market products using vitamin E acetate. This study examined smokers’ EVALI awareness, knowledge and perceived impact on their e-cigarette interest approximately 16 months after its peak.

Design Between January and February 2021, we surveyed 1018 adult current smokers from a nationally representative US research panel. Participants were asked if they had heard about EVALI prior to COVID-19, knew its main cause, and if EVALI had impacted their interest in future e-cigarette use.

Results 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).

Conclusions Despite the passage of time, considerable lack of knowledge and misperceptions about EVALI remain among those who smoke. Our findings suggest the need for continued efforts to promote better understanding of EVALI and appropriate behavioural and policy responses.

  • electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • public opinion
  • harm reduction

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