Perceived harm of secondhand electronic cigarette vapors and policy support to restrict public vaping: Results from a national survey of US adults

Susan Mello, Cabral A. Bigman, Ashley Sanders-Jackson, Andy S.L. Tan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: There is ongoing debate over banning electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use (vaping) in public places. Many people perceive secondhand e-cigarette vapors (SHV) to be relatively harmless, which may affect their support for policies to restrict vaping in public places. Given that awareness of secondhand cigarette smoke risks predicts public support for clean air policies, we hypothesized that greater perceived harm of SHV to personal health would be associated with stronger support for vaping restrictions. Methods: Data from 1449 US adults in a national online panel was collected from October to December 2013. Using multiple regressions, we predict a three-item scale of support for e-cigarette restricting policies in restaurants, bars/casinos/clubs, and parks using a two-item scale measuring concern and perceptions of harm to personal health from breathing SHV. Analyses adjusted for demographic covariates, smoking status and e-cigarette use, and were weighted to represent the US adult population. Results: Overall, respondents considered SHV exposure to be moderately harmful to their health and tended to favor restricting vaping in public places. Perceived harm of SHV to personal health was associated with support for vaping restrictions in public spaces (unstandardized regression coefficient, B = 0.18, 95% CI = 0.16, 0.20). Current smokers (vs. nonsmokers), those who ever tried e-cigarettes (vs. never), those who directly observed others vaping, and those with some college education (vs. high school or less) demonstrated less support for such policies. Implications: This study shows that support for banning vaping in public spaces in the United States is positively associated with perceived health harms of SHV exposure. The findings suggest that continued monitoring of public perception of SHV harm and the accuracy of e-cigarette marketing claims about reduced harm would be needed to guide clean air policy decisions. With the emergence of new scientific evidence of the potential effects of SHV exposure, these results will serve as an important baseline of public perceptions and opinion during a time when such evidence was particularly limited.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberntv136
Pages (from-to)686-693
Number of pages8
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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