U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


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Addictive Behaviors 91 (2019) 180–187



Introduction: This study is the first nationally representative survey of U.S. adults (18+) to examine perceptions of the relative harms of eight non-cigarette tobacco products.

Methods: Data are from Wave 1 of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study Adult Questionnaire, a nationally representative study of 32,320 adults in the United States conducted from September 2013 to December 2014.

Results: 40.7% of adults believed that electronic cigarettes were less harmful than cigarettes, and 17.8% of adults believed that hookah was less harmful than cigarettes. Those less knowledgeable about the health risks of smoking were more likely to believe that the non-cigarette products were less harmful than cigarettes. Current non-cigarette tobacco product users were more likely to perceive that product to be less harmful than cigarettes (except filtered cigars). There was a significant positive correlation between beliefs that cigarettes were harmful and the likelihood of using hookah; perceptions of the harmfulness of cigarettes was not associated with the likelihood of using any other product.

Conclusions: Perceptions of harmfulness varied widely across non-cigarette tobacco products. E-cigarettes and hookah in particular are seen as less harmful compared to cigarettes.