Survey Shows Doctors Are Split On E-Cig Benefits

Guy Bentley | Research Associate, Reason Foundation

Physicians are split on the benefits of using e-cigarettes as a tool for reducing smoking-related harms, according to a study from the Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

Researchers sent an anonymous online questionnaire to faculty, residents and fellows in the university’s departments of internal medicine and surgery — receiving responses from 51 percent.

“With easy access and over the counter availability, many patients consider using e-cigarettes for smoking cessation. Few studies have looked at long-term safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes,” writes Venkatkiran Kanchustambham, of Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

The findings presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Annual Meeting from March 4-7 also found that more than a quarter of respondents were unfamiliar with what “vaping” meant.

Half of those polled worried e-cigarettes would prove tempting to non-smokers despite data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing that just 0.4 percent of never-smokers are current vapers.

There were slight majorities in favor of tighter e-cigarette regulations and warnings on vapor products, similar to those on tobacco, and 36 percent supported advertising restrictions.

“Further research is needed to assess whether e-cigarettes could be an effective smoking cessation tool,” said Kanchustambham. “There is an apparent knowledge gap among physicians and an urgent need for evidence-based guidelines to aid with advising smokers enquiring about e-cigarettes.”

The medical profession’s attitude toward e-cigarettes is wildly different that in the United Kingdom, where they have been classified as medical devices. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said e-cigarettes could be marketed as smoking cessation aids, opening the way for prescription use by Britain’s National Health Service.

Prior to MHRA’s decision, e-cigarettes could not be recommended by general practitioners because they were not licensed. Now, e-cigarettes will be able to more fully compete with traditional quitting remedies such as nicotine gum and patches.

The U.K. has been one of the most bullish countries on the public health benefits of e-cigarettes, with an independent study from Public Health England claiming they are 95 percent safer than tobacco.

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