Comparison of a general and conditional measure of e-cigarette harm perceptions

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Measures of tobacco product harm perceptions are important in research, given their association with tobacco use. Despite recommendations to use more specific harm and risk perception measures, limited research exists comparing different wordings. We present exploratory survey data comparing young adults’ (ages 18–29) responses to a general e-cigarette harm perception measure (“How harmful, if at all, do you think vaping/using an e-cigarette is to a user’s health?”) with a more specific conditional measure, which personalized the behavior/harm (“imagine you vaped,” “your health”) and presented a specific use condition (exclusive daily vaping) and timeframe (10 years). Data were collected in January 2019 (n = 1006). Measures were highly correlated (r = 0.76, Cronbach’s α = 0.86), and most (65%) provided consistent responses, although more participants rated e-cigarettes as very or extremely harmful using the conditional (51.6%) versus the general (43.9%) harm measure. However, significant differences in harm ratings were not observed among young adults who currently vaped. Correlations between each harm perception measure and measures of e-cigarette use intentions were similar. More specifically worded harm perception measures may result in somewhat higher e-cigarette harm ratings than general measures for some young adults. Additional research on best practices for measuring e-cigarette and other tobacco harm perceptions is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5151
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 2 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • E-cigarettes
  • Harm perception
  • Measurement
  • Risk perception


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