The knowledge, concerns and healthcare practices among physicians regarding electronic cigarettes

J Community Hosp Intern Med Perspect. 2017 Jul 13;7(3):144-150. doi: 10.1080/20009666.2017.1343076. eCollection 2017 Jul.


Background: Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are battery-powered devices that deliver aerosolized nicotine. With easy access and over-the-counter availability, many patients consider using electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation. Few studies have looked at long-term safety/efficacy and physician knowledge/attitudes toward e-cigarettes. Physicians have insufficient guidelines for advising their patients about e-cigarettes. Objective: 1) To identify knowledge and attitude of health care practitioners toward electronic cigarettes. 2) To identify the effect of level of training, experience and speciality on knowledge and practice of electronic cigarettes. 3) To identify factors influencing electronic cigarettes advise/prescribing practice. Methods: An anonymous online questionnaire was sent to residents, fellows, and faculty in pre-selected specialties at Saint Louis University (SLU) Hospital. Results: We received 115 responses. Nine percent reported being 'very familiar' with e-cigarettes, while 25% reported no familiarity; 18% of physicians would advise e-cigarettes as nicotine-replacement therapy if asked by patients; 91% were aware of the nicotine content of e-cigarettes, but only 20% and 39%, respectively, were aware of the presence of carcinogens and polyethylene glycol. Only 63% of respondents knew what 'vape' meant. Lack of evidence regarding long-term safety (76%), e-cigarettes as starter products for nonsmokers (50%), absence of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations (51%) and marketing to youth (42%) were major concerns. Stricter regulations (54%), warning labels similar to tobacco products (53%), restricting advertising (36%), banning sales to minors (34%), and banning use in public spaces (25%) were favored as regulatory measures. More than 50% of physicians see a role for e-cigarettes as part of 'harm-reduction strategy'. Conclusions: Further research is needed to assess whether e- cigarettes could be an effective smoking-cessation tool. There is an apparent knowledge deficit among physicians and an urgent need for evidence-based guidelines to aid with advising patients enquiring about e-cigarettes.

Keywords: Electronic cigarettes; FDA; harm reduction; nicotine; smoking cessation.