Introduction: Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are not currently approved or recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or various medical organizations; yet, they appear to play a substantial role in tobacco users' cessation attempts. This study reports on a physician survey that measured beliefs, attitudes, and behavior related to e-cigarettes and smoking cessation. To our knowledge this is the first study to measure attitudes toward e-cigarettes among physicians treating adult smokers.
Methods: Using a direct marketing company, a random sample of 787 North Carolina physicians were contacted in 2013 through email, with 413 opening the email and 128 responding (response rate = 31%). Physicians' attitudes towards e-cigarettes were measured through a series of close-ended questions. Recommending e-cigarettes to patients served as the outcome variable for a logistic regression analysis.
Results: Two thirds (67%) of the surveyed physicians indicated e-cigarettes are a helpful aid for smoking cessation, and 35% recommended them to their patients. Physicians were more likely to recommend e-cigarettes when their patients asked about them or when the physician believed e-cigarettes were safer than smoking standard cigarettes.
Conclusions: Many North Carolina physicians are having conversations about e-cigarettes with their patients, and some are recommending them. Future FDA regulation of e-cigarettes may help provide evidence-based guidance to physicians about e-cigarettes and will help ensure that patients receive evidence-based recommendations about the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes in tobacco cessation.