Health & Studies

Doctors’ Recommendations

More American doctors are talking to patients about switching to vaping – but only because the smokers are pushing for it

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A new piece of research published in JAMA Network Open has found that more American doctors are talking to patients about switching from smoking to vaping – but only because the smokers are pushing for it. The work also provided more evidence that doctors still have a woeful level of knowledge when it comes to electronic cigarettes.

The team from Rutgers University discovered that the clinicians are calling for more evidence about vaping’s safety and efficacy despite the overwhelming volume of proof being produced by independent UK academics.

The doctors are still reluctant to recommend vaping to smokers because they continue to labour under the misapprehension that the use of e-cigarettes is as equally harmful as smoking tobacco products.

Although the Food and Drug Administration has not approved e-cigarettes as a cessation device, many people ask their physicians about using them as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes or as a way to help them stop smoking,” say the research team.

Study author Michael Steinberg commented: “As the evidence grows showing e-cigarettes as potentially effective for smoking cessation, they may play a pivotal role in reducing use of cigarettes and subsequently tobacco-caused disease.

“It’s important to understand physicians’ perspectives on e-cigarettes as a means for harm reduction.”

The study, published in JAMA Network Open, asked 2,058 U.S. physicians in 2018 and again in 2019 about their communication with patients about e-cigarettes. The researchers asked how they would advise two different patients who wanted to quit smoking: a young woman who is a lighter smoker and had not yet tried to quit and an older man who smoked heavily and had tried to quit many times using different methods.

The study found that physicians were significantly more likely to recommend e-cigarettes for the heavy smoker while recommending FDA-approved medications, like nicotine gum or lozenges, for the light smoker. Nearly 70 percent of the physicians reported that patients have asked them about e-cigarettes, and one-third said they were asked in the past 30 days. More than 60 percent of the doctors incorrectly believed that all tobacco products are equally harmful.

Cristine Delnevo, director of the Rutgers Centre for Tobacco Studies at the Rutgers School of Public Health, added: “These findings show it is critical to address physicians’ misperceptions and educate them on e-cigarettes’ efficacy, particularly correcting their misperceptions that all tobacco products are equally harmful, as opposed to the fact that combusted tobacco is by far the most dangerous.”

The study also found that pulmonologists, cardiologists and physicians who used the U.S. Public Health Service Clinical Practice Guidelines for treating tobacco use and dependence were more likely to recommend e-cigarettes to patients as were those who endorsed a harm-reduction perspective and had themselves smoked cigarettes. Physicians were also more likely to recommend e-cigarettes, however, if a patient asked about them first.


Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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