More than 60% of all doctors incorrectly believe all tobacco products are equally harmful, making them less likely to recommend e-cigarettes for people trying to quit smoking, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open.
The study, led by Rutgers University, shows that researchers asked more than 2,000 doctors in the U.S. in 2018 and 2019 about how they would advise patients on using e-cigarettes ask a method of combustible smoking cessation. One in four physicians discouraged all use of e-cigarettes and also were more likely to advise against them if the hypothetical smoker they were counseling were a younger, light smoker compared to an older, heavy smoker.
Although no associations were found between harm-reduction beliefs and being asked about e-cigarettes by patients, the association between physicians’ harm-reduction beliefs and their e-cigarette recommendation practices was significant.
“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,” lead author Cristine Delnevo, the director of the Rutgers Center for Tobacco Studies, said in a statement.
The belief that all tobacco products are equally harmful was associated with lower rates of recommending e-cigarettes, the study states, adding that as the evidence base grows for e-cigarette efficacy for smoking cessation, there is need for physician education regarding e-cigarette efficacy.
“As the evidence base grows for e-cigarette efficacy for smoking cessation, physicians’ understanding of e-cigarettes in the context of harm reduction must keep pace with the emerging scientific evidence through effective educational opportunities,” the study’s authors write. “Such opportunities should address e-cigarette safety and efficacy and correct misperceptions that all tobacco products are equally harmful.”