Physicians nurse misconceptions about use of e-cigarettes

Study points out that a number of physicians in the US are not very keen on suggesting e-cigarettes to people who look forward to quit smoking.

Smoking has been a major concern for the healthcare sector, with deaths due to tobacco-caused diseases continuing to stay high in numbers. It was seen as a relief when electronic cigarettes made their advent as an alternative to smoking. However, there have been debates on how safe is e-cigarettes too.

It has been seen that many physicians are of the opinion that all tobacco products are equally harmful. This has led to a situation where healthcare professionals turn hesitant towards recommending e-cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco smoking. A Rutgers study has pointed out that a good number of physicians in the US are not very keen on suggesting e-cigarettes to people who look forward to quitting the habit. The same is the case when it comes to recommending e-cigarettes to people being treated for a tobacco-caused disease.

e-cigarettes use heated liquid containing nicotine

Common knowledge is that the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) has not yet given the nod for e-cigarettes as a device that could be recommended towards quitting tobacco smoking or even as a means to help smokers stop smoking. This is because e-cigarettes deploy a heated liquid containing nicotine. The United States, according to a report, record around 480,000 deaths every year from smoking tobacco.

The report quoted Michael Steinberg, medical director of the Rutgers Tobacco Dependence Program at the Center for Tobacco Studies and division chief in the Department of Medicine at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, as saying that evidence has been that e-cigarettes are seen as a potentially effective for people to quit smoking, and that the devices could play a key role in curbing the use of cigarettes and preventing tobacco-related illnesses. Steinberg added that it is important to understand physicians’ perspectives on e-cigarettes as a means for harm reduction.

The Rutgers study had surveyed as many as 2,058 US physicians in 2018 and again in 2019 about their communication with patients about e-cigarettes. The survey banked on questions on how physicians would advise light smokers who had not yet tried to quit and heavy smokers who wanted to quit.

Need to educate physicians on smoking alternative

The results were such that physicians were more likely to recommend e-cigarettes for the heavy smokers, but for the light smokers the advice was that they needed to FDA-approved medications, like nicotine gum or lozenges. The study also revealed that close to 70 percent of the physicians had said that patients have asked them about e-cigarettes, while one-third stated that they were asked about them in the past 30 days.

Significantly, more than 60 percent of the doctors incorrectly believed that all tobacco products are equally harmful. This also means that addressing physicians’ misperceptions and educating them on the efficacy of electronic cigarettes have become imperative. It is important to correct the misperceptions of physicians. Their belief that all tobacco products are equally harmful, as against the fact that combusted tobacco is the most dangerous needs to be revisited and corrected.