ASH supports calls for more to be done on public understanding of nicotine

Thursday 13 August 2015

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) supports the call made by the Royal Society of Public Health [1] today for more to be done to ensure that medical professionals, the media and the public understand that nicotine is not the deadly component in cigarettes.

In 2013 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) identified a need for better public understanding of the relative safety of licenced nicotine containing products. [2] ASH research suggests that since then public understanding of nicotine has not improved. In fact false beliefs about the risks from electronic cigarettes have grown [3].

Hazel Cheeseman, Director of Policy at health charity ASH said:

“Scientists have known for many years that it’s the smoke in cigarettes that’s deadly not the nicotine. Unfortunately this is not yet well understood by smokers, medical professionals or the media, many of whom still think nicotine causes cancer and heart disease. The persistence of this misconception will cost lives as smokers who otherwise would switch to alternative sources of nicotine are put off. The time for this misunderstanding to be put right is long overdue.”


Notes and Links:

[1] More information on Royal Society of Public Health’s report can be found at

[2] NICE public health guidance on Tobacco Harm Reduction

[3] Results from annual ASH Smokefree GB Survey conducted by YouGov.

2015 survey: 12,055 adults
2014 survey: 12,269 adults

Electronic cigarettes

Between 2013 and 2015 there has been a change in the perception of harm from electronic cigarettes:
• A decrease in the number of people who don’t know whether an electronic cigarette is more or less harmful than a regular cigarette (from 38% in 2013 to 23% in 2015)
• An increase in the number of people who accurately think electronic cigarettes are less harmful (from 43% in 2013 to 52% in 2015)
• A decline among those who think they are completely harmless (from 10% in 2013 to 2% in 2015).
• However, at the same time the number of people who wrongly think they are as harmful has increased (from 6% to 20%).