Dr. David Abrams, professor of social and behavioral sciences at New York University College of Global Public Health recently had his paper “Public misperception that very low nicotine cigarettes are less carcinogenic“ published online in the journal, Tobacco Control. The research concluded that “many smokers had the misperception that smoking very low nicotine content (VLNC) cigarettes is less likely to cause cancer, and some stated that they would be less likely to quit.”
The U.S. is considering a very low nicotine content (VLNC) cigarette standard. The authors sought to characterize the prevalence and correlates of the incorrect belief that VLNC cigarettes are less carcinogenic than current cigarettes, as this could reduce motivation to quit. Participants of the study were a nationally representative sample of 650 adult smokers in the U.S. In 2015 – 2016, before the VLNC proposal became public, these smokers took part in an online survey. The authors used multivariate weighted analyses to calculate ORs and percentages and a χ2 test to examine the association between variables.
Overall, 47.1 percent of smokers believed that smoking VLNC cigarettes for 30 years would be less likely to cause cancer than smoking current cigarettes. This misperception was more common among smokers who were aged above 55 (56.6 percent) and black (57.4 percent). Additionally, 23.9 percent of smokers reported they would be less likely to quit if the U.S. adopted a VLNC standard. Thinking that VLNC cigarettes would be less carcinogenic was associated with smokers reporting they would be less likely to quit (P<0.01). Many smokers had the misperception that smoking VLNC cigarettes is less likely to cause cancer, and some stated that they would be less likely to quit. A VLNC standard may be more effective if accompanied by a communication campaign that emphasizes the continued dangers of smoking VLNC cigarettes due to the many toxic chemicals in smoke.