Primary care physicians were frequently not their patients’ main source of information when it came to e-cigarette use, according to findings recently published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.
“Given the emergence of widespread use of e-cigarettes and the frequency of health claims being made by the e-cigarette industry, surprisingly little is known about how patients and PCPs discuss e-cigarettes during clinic visits,” Mark P. Doescher, MD, MSPH, of the department of family and preventive medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and colleagues wrote. “The role of PCPs in advising patients regarding the health risks or potential benefits of using e-cigarettes remains unclear at the same time that many patients are using these products and undoubtedly asking their PCPs about them.”
Researchers conducted a cross-sectional survey regarding several e-cigarette topics of 568 adult patients at a single-family medicine clinic in Oklahoma. Of that total, 29% of respondents had last used an e-cigarette in the past 30 or more days, and 10% had used them in the past 30 days or less.
Doescher and colleagues found that 30.2% of the surveyed patients “disagreed that their PCP knew a lot about e-cigarettes.” In addition, 25% of all the surveyed patients wanted their PCP to talk about e-cigarettes with them, while 62% of e-cigarette users in the past 30 days wanted such a conversation. In addition, 27.3% said they knew about the health effects tied to quitting cigarettes, secondhand smoke and e-cigarettes. Most respondents (56.6%) said television advertisements provided their education on e-cigarettes; other sources of information included family and friends (49.9%), e-cigarette shops (25.5%), and physician offices (6%).
Also, e-cigarette use was significantly higher in the respondents who smoked traditional cigarettes, were less educated and were younger, but use did not fluctuate by the patient’s health status or sex.
“The few reports on e-cigarette counseling by PCPs indicate that when counseling occurs, it tends to be in the context of recommended e-cigarettes as a cigarette cessation aid, despite the fact that little evidence exists that e-cigarettes are effective in smoking cessation and may even be associated with fewer quit attempts in ‘real-world’ clinical settings,” Doescher and colleagues wrote. “It seems inevitable that PCPs will increasingly discuss e-cigarettes with patients, so efforts to better characterize the possible role of e-cigarettes on smoking behaviors, such as cigarette cessation are needed, as is research to help provide PCPs with evidence-based information on these products.”
Researchers also said their findings “underscore the need” for clinicians to provide information on e-cigarettes to their patients, instead of having patients depend on sources that may not be objective or may be motivated by profit. – by Janel Miller
The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.