BACKGROUND: The science surrounding e-cigarettes and other electronic vaping products (EVPs) is rapidly evolving, and the health effects of vaping are unclear. Little research has explored how individuals respond to information acknowledging scientific uncertainty. The aim of the present study was to understand the impact of messages about scientific uncertainty regarding the health effects of vaping on risk perceptions and behavioral intentions.
METHODS: Adults in an online experiment (n = 2508) were randomly exposed to view either a control message (a short factual statement about EVPs) or an uncertainty message (the control message plus additional information describing why EVP-related research is limited or inconclusive). Participants rated the risks of vaping and their intentions to try or stop vaping.
RESULTS: Individuals who viewed the uncertainty message rated vaping as less risky than those who viewed the control message. Message exposure did not impact intentions to try vaping soon or intentions to stop vaping in the next 6 months.
CONCLUSIONS: Acknowledging scientific uncertainty made EVP use seem less risky. Future research should explore possible drivers of this response, such as deeper message processing or emotional reactions. Researchers and practitioners designing public health campaigns about vaping might consider a cautious approach to presenting information about scientific uncertainty.