Tobacco Induced Diseases (2020-09-01)

Perceived relative harm of heated tobacco products (IQOS), e-cigarettes, and cigarettes among adults in Canada: Findings from the ITC Project

  • Edward Sutanto,
  • Connor R. Miller,
  • Danielle M. Smith,
  • Richard J. O'Connor,
  • Shannon Gravely,
  • David Hammond,
  • Andrew Hyland,
  • Kenneth M. Cummings,
  • Anne C. K. Quah,
  • Geoffrey T. Fong,
  • Thomas K. Agar,
  • Maciej L. Goniewicz

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 18, no. September
pp. 1 – 5


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Introduction Tobacco companies have introduced heated tobacco products (HTPs), such as IQOS, which may compete with e-cigarettes among smokers interested in switching to potentially reduced-risk products. Non-smokers may also start using IQOS if they believe this product is less harmful than other nicotine products. Smokers’ and non-smokers’ decisions may be driven by relative harm perceptions of emerging nicotine products. We aimed to examine relative harm perceptions between IQOS, e-cigarettes, and cigarettes, among nicotine product users and non-users. Material and Methods We conducted a web survey with Canadian respondents (aged ≥20 years; n=268) in September–October 2018. Perceptions about relative harm between IQOS (available for sale since 2017 and subject to the same comprehensive marketing restrictions as cigarettes in Canada), e-cigarettes, and cigarettes, were assessed among non-users (n=79), exclusive smokers (n=78), exclusive e-cigarette users (n=32), and dual users (n=79). Multiple logistic regression explored the association between relative harm perceptions and nicotine-use status, adjusting for sociodemographic variables. Results Over half of respondents perceived IQOS as equally or more harmful than e-cigarettes (53.7%), while almost a quarter either reported IQOS as less harmful than e-cigarettes or were uncertain (22.7% and 23.5%, respectively). Two-thirds of respondents (65.7%) perceived e-cigarettes as less harmful than cigarettes, yet only half (48.1%) perceived IQOS as less harmful than cigarettes. Both exclusive and dual e-cigarette users, but not exclusive smokers, had higher odds of perceiving IQOS as more harmful than e-cigarettes and less harmful than cigarettes compared to non-users. Conclusions Most nicotine users and non-users perceive differential health risk across IQOS, e-cigarettes, and cigarettes. Although e-cigarettes are generally viewed as less harmful than cigarettes, the perceived harm of IQOS was unclear.