Cancer Research UK: Pilot Program to Raise Awareness of the Relative Safety of E-Cigs

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According to Cancer Research UK, tobacco causes over 100,000 deaths in the UK per year, making it the biggest preventable cause of death in the country. In addition to researching new treatments for cancer and optimizing current ones, the organization focuses on prevention and early diagnosis of the disease. In January 2018, in line with their cancer prevention objectives, Cancer Research UK launched its first pilot program aimed at raising awareness of the relative safety of electronic cigarettes compared to traditional cigarettes in an effort to encourage smokers to make the switch.

While evidence to-date demonstrates that e-cigs are far less harmful than their combustible counterparts, Cancer Research UK believes that the public’s perceptions of the risks of e-cigarette use are not only inaccurate but even worsening. A 2017 survey conducted by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) showed that shockingly, only 13% of adults thought that e-cigs were a lot less damaging than smoking; in 2013, that number was 21%. Also, the percentage of smokers who believed they were more, or equally as, harmful as smoking went from 7% to 26% between 2013 and 2016. Therefore, Cancer Research UK’s pilot addressed misconceptions surrounding the devices by highlighting their relative safety when compared to traditional cigarettes, which they hope will, in turn, help smokers make informed choices.

Citing high smoking prevalence and deprivation levels as one of the main reasons to run the pilot in the Greater Manchester area, Cancer Research UK’s intent was to reach lower socio-economic groups smokers between the ages of 25 and 55 who wanted to quit but had never used an e-cigarette. The campaign featured ads that ran from January 15 to February 18 and focused heavily on outdoor advertising such as posters in buses, phone booths, and washrooms, as well as prominently-displayed billboards.

Now that the campaign has concluded, the organization is in the process of measuring the impact of its efforts on awareness, knowledge, attitudes, and reported behavior using a combination of surveys and interviews.

What do you think of Cancer Research UK’s e-cigarette campaign? Do you envision something similar in the US in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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