WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Most U.S. adults favor some type of regulation for e-cigarettes. A majority, 60%, say e-cigarettes should be regulated as much as tobacco cigarettes. An additional 19% say e-cigarettes should be regulated, but not as much as regular cigarettes. Seventeen percent say they should not be regulated at all.
The 17% of U.S. adults who currently smoke regular tobacco cigarettes and the 19% who have tried e-cigarettes are somewhat less likely than U.S. adults overall to say e-cigarettes should be regulated as much as tobacco cigarettes. But regardless of Americans' personal experience with tobacco or e-cigarettes, the prevailing opinion is that both products should be regulated similarly.
The Food and Drug Administration proposed regulations in April 2014 that would extend its tobacco authority to cover e-cigarettes. These regulations, which include banning sales to minors and requiring warning labels, have not yet been implemented.
In the absence of federal regulations, some state and local governments have passed laws and policies regulating e-cigarettes. Forty-eight states prohibit sales of electronic cigarettes to minors, as of December 2015. Seven states include e-cigarettes in their definitions of "tobacco products" in state statutes, as of May 2015. Fifteen states have at least one restriction on where e-cigarettes can be used.
Many Americans Believe E-Cigs Are Not as Harmful as Tobacco Cigs
Advocates of e-cigarettes, or vaping, say they are an effective smoking-cessation product, although the FDA has not approved e-cigarettes for this purpose. Its proponents see e-cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes and, in turn, believe they should be regulated less strictly. Opponents argue that e-cigarettes are a gateway to regular cigarettes, particularly for young adults, and should be regulated the same way as tobacco products.
Americans tend to say e-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes to personal health. While one in three say e-cigarettes are just as bad as tobacco cigarettes for someone's health, the majority either say e-cigarettes are less harmful to one's health than tobacco cigarettes (48%) or are not harmful to personal health at all (11%). Current tobacco cigarette smokers and those who have tried e-cigarettes are, not surprisingly, less likely than U.S. adults overall to say e-cigarettes are just as harmful as tobacco cigarettes.
Despite the potential for e-cigarettes to help some smokers quit using tobacco, when asked about the effect of e-cigarettes on public health, half of U.S. adults say they are harmful, 14% say they are helpful and 28% say they have no effect. Cigarette smokers and those who have tried e-cigarettes are significantly less likely than U.S. adults overall to say e-cigarettes are harmful to public health. These groups tilt toward saying e-cigarettes have no effect on public health.
Little is known about how the manufacturing, use and disposal of e-cigarettes affect the environment, according to an FDA/Center for Tobacco Products literature review. Americans are slightly less likely to say e-cigarettes harm the environment as they are to say the same about public health, with equal percentages saying e-cigarettes are either harmful to the environment or have no impact (40%). Eleven percent believe they help the environment. Majorities of current tobacco smokers and those who have tried e-cigarettes say they have no impact on the environment.
No Consensus on Whether to Ban E-Cigarette Use in Public Places
Americans are not in favor of completely banning e-cigarettes in restaurants, workplaces, hotels, bars and public parks. Of these venues, Americans are most likely to say e-cigarettes should be totally banned from restaurants (48%) and least likely to say they should be banned from public parks (29%). In contrast, a majority of U.S. adults believe cigarette smoking should be illegal in all public places.
Not surprisingly, regular and e-cigarette smokers are much less supportive of total bans.
Research into how e-cigarettes affect people's health and the public in general provides mixed results, with some researchers hailing it as a next-generation method of tobacco cessation, while others see it as a gateway to tobacco use. It is also unclear whether e-cigarettes have their own harmful health effects. With the growth of e-cigarette use being a relatively recent phenomenon, it may take some time before researchers reach a consensus on the effect e-cigarettes have on personal, public and environmental health.
Gallup and Healthways will publish additional research this month on e-cigarette usage.
Results are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 1-Dec. 30, 2015, as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey, with a random sample of 13,648 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±1.0 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For results based on the total sample of adults who currently smoke tobacco cigarettes, the margin of sampling error is ±2.6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For results based on the total sample of adults who have tried e-cigarettes, the margin of sampling error is ±6.8 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.
Learn more about how the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index works.