Even though the U.S. Preventative Service Task Force and other organizations do not recommend e-cigarettes be used as a smoking cessation tool, study findings published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine suggest many physicians still recommend them for that purpose.
One of the researchers recommended physicians remind patients of the possible dangers associated with e-cigarettes, and, if a patient still uses them, to stay informed of the patient’s smoking habits.
“If a patient self-initiates use of e-cigarettes, I caution them about these potential concerns and offer close follow-up to determine if they are successful in their attempt to quit smoking,” Scott M. Strayer, MD, MPH, of the department of family and preventative medicine, University of South Carolina School of Medicine, told Healio Family Medicine. “If they aren't, there is always the opportunity to work with them to adjust their cessation plan and to reinforce more effective strategies.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. Surgeon General called e-cigarettes a “public health threat” to youth, and outlined measures to curb their use.
Researchers surveyed 2,671 smokers recruited from Global Market Insights. All were aged 18 to 64 years, smoked at least one cigarette in the past month and at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime. Among the participants, 15% who visited a physician reported having a conversation with their doctor about e-cigarettes, and 61% of those said their physician recommended the devices for smoking cessation. Most of those patients discussing e-cigarettes were men, perhaps explaining why e-cigarette use among women is low, according to researchers.
Researchers also wrote that the most frequent e-cigarette users were more likely to talk about e-cigarettes and receive advice to use them for smoking cessation. This, researchers said, suggested doctors are working with patient preferences and believe using e-cigarettes is safer than continuing to smoke regular cigarettes. Smokers that recently tried to quit were also more likely to have talked to their physician about e-cigarettes. This may indicate the patient may have been either contemplating or already using e-cigarettes for cessation when they spoke with their doctor, according to researchers.
Strayer discussed his observations of those trying to stop smoking.
“Many patients attempt to use them for cessation and often initiate this intervention on their own,” Strayer said. “The conversation becomes a little more challenging at this point, as the patient is using something that might be helpful, but we just don't have strong evidence that it works, and we also don't have long-term harm data.”– by Janel Miller
Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.