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French Ignorance Getting Worse

Consumer organisation SOVAPE has discovered that the French public’s understanding of vaping has got worse over the last twelve months

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Last year, a survey conducted by French vaping advocacy group SOVAPE discovered that 45% of French adults thought that vaping is as dangerous as smoking and 80% believed that nicotine is carcinogenic. It has just released findings showing now a shocking 75% of French people do not know that vaping is less dangerous than smoking.

In March, a collection of experts and advocates sent a letter to The Lancet. It was in response to an editorial attacking vaping which included multiple examples of errors and misdirection.

Such coverage, they said, does “a major disservice to evidence-based public health.”

Equating the dangers of vaping with those of smoking ignores dozens of studies that show substantial differences in the risks associated with cigarette and e-cigarette use. The evidence of efficacy of e-cigarettes in helping smokers quit is not weak; the results of a randomised controlled trial have shown two times higher quit rates by people using e-cigarettes than in people using medicinal nicotine replacement therapy, confirming similar findings from population data. E-cigarettes have an important role to play in preventing death and disability from tobacco use, and, while remaining vigilant over potential adverse effects is vital, the effect on public health of denying smokers the choice to use e-cigarettes could be devastating.”

Publishing nonsense fuels confusion and false beliefs in the public, as evidenced by last year’s survey conducted by SOVAPE. It discovered one in two French (51%) considered vaping as much, or even more harmful than cigarettes, a feeling that increased by 10% between 2014 and 2017.

And it keeps getting worse.

Commenting on their latest study, SOVAPE says: “The results of the new BVA-SOVAPE survey show that most French people still have misperceptions about the risks of vaping and nicotine. Without an information campaign, this situation, which is detrimental to smoking cessation, has not changed since 2019.”

According to the new survey conducted in early September 2020 by BVA:

  • Only 8% of French people know that vaping is much less risky than smoking (compared to 7% in 2019 - 1%)
  • Only 23% think it is little or much less risky (compared to 25% in 2019 - 2%)
  • 58% think vaping is as much or more risky than smoking (compared to 59% in 2019 - 1%)
  • 18% admit they don't know (compared to 15% in 2019 - 3%)
  • On a cumulative basis, 75% of French people are still wrong about the risks of vaping compared to those of smoking

Now 78% of French people think nicotine is carcinogenic, yet nicotine is not a proven carcinogen for humans.

"It is important that appropriate information legitimizes the use of nicotine, the first active ingredient in smoking cessation replacement devices," Said Antoine Deutsch of the National Cancer Institute (INCa) at the Vape Summit in October 2019.

Benoit Vallet, Professor at the School of Public Affairs, SciencesPo Paris, commented: “This ‘misperception’ of the French, reiterated this year, deserves today strong investments in prevention messages on the part of our national agency, but also research efforts in the humanities and social sciences to better understand this ignorance and how it is maintained.”

Professor Jean-François Etter, University of Geneva, said that these misperceptions have public health implications: “Fewer smokers give up smoking to switch to low-risk products. Correcting these misperceptions will require a long-term effort, which will include information to the public and professionals (health, journalists, policy makers, etc.), and training of health professionals in particular, and the allocation of necessary resources.”


  • SOVAPE – [link]
  • The French Are Misinformed, Planet of the Vapes, 2019 – [link]
  • Scaremongering Called Out, Planet of the Vapes, 2020 – [link]

Photo Credit:

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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