More than 20% of 18- to 38-year-olds called vaping harmless and nonaddictive; nearly 30% said flavored e-cigarettes do less damage to the lungs than unflavored ones.
The nationwide poll of more than 4,000 adults, commissioned by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), was conducted between July 9 and Aug. 10. Reports of vaping-related respiratory illnesses began in July.
More than 800 cases of severe lung illness have been reported and 12 people in 10 states have died, according to the latest statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"There are so many unanswered questions about e-cigarettes," Dr. Richard Schilsky, ASCO's chief medical officer, said in a society news release. "We need more research about these products so we can begin to answer these questions and protect the health and safety of the American public through education and, where necessary, regulation."
Nationwide, about 1 in 5 adults use e-cigarettes, the pollsters found.
Vaping is far more popular with young adults than their older counterparts. More than 21% of 23- to 38-year-olds (Millennials) said they regularly use e-cigarettes, compared with 15% of 39- to 54-year-olds (Generation X) and 5% of 55- to 72-year-olds (Baby Boomers).
Among Boomers, 10% said vaping is safe; 14% said it not addictive; and 12% thought flavored e-cigarettes are less harmful than unflavored ones.
Despite the growing number of teens who use e-cigarettes, 73% of parents said they have warned their children about the dangers of vaping.
The U.S. Surgeon General has warned that e-cigarettes contain addictive and harmful or potentially harmful ingredients, including nicotine, lead and other heavy metals and flavorants, such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to lung disease.
The Trump administration recently announced plans to ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes. New York and Michigan are also banning flavored vaping products.
Nearly 7 in 10 adults said they support increasing the legal age to buy e-cigarettes from 18 to 21.
Among the 13% of adults who said they vape regularly, 80% were current or former smokers. Many said they use e-cigarettes as a way to use less tobacco (44%) or to stop smoking entirely (41%).
While quitting is a worthwhile goal, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid.
Most Americans (71%) want the FDA to regulate e-cigarettes; 46% favoring banning sale of flavored e-cigarettes; and 41% support a total ban.