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Docs Recommend Vaping to Quit Smokes

A study recently published in the scientific and medical journal PLOS One, based in North Carolina, indicates that 67% of the doctors interviewed consider e-cigarettes to be an effective smoking cessation method, and 35% recommend them to their patients.

The study was conducted by four doctors seeking data on vaping from the perspective of doctors. They used a direct marketing company to contact by e-mail a random sample of 787 North Carolina physicians. It seems that 413 of the doctors contacted opened the e-mails, and 128 responded. The resulting data consists of the doctors' responses to questions in the e-mail messages.

The study was funded by the North Carolina Health and Human Services Department and the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but the funding agencies had no role in designing or conducting the research. The authors have declared that they have no competing interests.

A clinical practice guide for physicians, produced in 2008, recommends that all clinicians ask patients about smoking behavior, and deliver strong cessation recommendations to patients who report that they use tobacco. The guidelines do not mention e-cigs in the range of quit methods, as they were not yet in widespread use in 2008. The guidelines suggest the usual quit methods that antedate the widespread adoption of vaping as a cessation tool. This study was designed to assess current notions about vaping and cessation among doctors treating adults. (A previous study along similar lines concerned itself only with doctors treating juveniles.)

The doctors surveyed were asked whether they believe e-cigs to be FDA approved for smoking cessation, whether they believe e-cigs lower users' risk of cancer, whether they believe e-cigs to be effective for smoking cessation, and whether they recommend them. They were also asked about their clinical practices, whether they recommend behavioral counseling along with quit methods, how confident they are of their abilities to prescribe cessation medications, and questions about personal and professional demographics.

Older physicians were more likely to recommend e-cigs for smoking cessation, as were those who typically recommend behavioral counseling as part of a smoking cessation regime. The researchers view this correlation as a suggestion that "physicians may be interested in continuing the e-cigarette conversation with their patients in future appointments."

"As e-cigarettes become more mainstream, physicians may be called on to engage in conversations with their patients about the safety and efficacy of these products," the researchers conclude. The study is a landmark in the growing tide of data suggesting that vaping can be a successful smoking cessation strategy.