What Do Doctors Think About Vaping?

    A new survey of US physicians shows many think vaping can help smokers quit


    Over 70 percent of American doctors in a new survey say they think vaping can help patients reduce or quit smoking. But just 38 percent say they have recommended e-cigarettes to their smoking patients.

    More than 500 doctors — primary care and surgical care physicians, and pulmonologists — participated in the written survey. It was conducted by Dr. Andrew S. Nickels of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN, and four other researchers from Vanderbilt, and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

    The results were published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

    Primary care doctors most likely to recommend vaping

    According to a press release from Oxford University Press, about two-thirds of the participants reported that their smoking patients ask them about e-cigarettes, and 58 percent of the doctors say they ask their smoking patients about using e-cigarettes.

    Surgical specialists were less likely to recommend vaping to their patients

    Just 85 percent of the doctors report frequently advising their patients to quit smoking, but about two-thirds frequently provide cessation assistance to patients. If patients ask whether they recommend e-cigs to quit smoking, just 30 percent said they would, and 21 percent recommend against vaping. Asked whether they would recommend e-cigarettes to reduce smoking, 37 percent approved.

    Surgical specialists were less likely to recommend vaping to their patients, though the study posits that this may be because nicotine is known to inhibit healing of wounds. Another possible explanation is that surgeons don’t see their smoking patients frequently. General practitioners and pulmonologists are more likely to witness the real effects smoking has over time.

    Education needed: talk to your doctors!


    “This study shows that, across the United States, physician are discussing electronic cigarettes with their patients who smoke,” says Dr. Nickels. “Despite limited evidence these products are effective for smoking cessation or are safe for long term use, physicians appear to be tolerant of these products and some are recommending them. This information serves as a call to regulators and health policy authorities that electronic cigarettes are effectively being viewed and discussed as devices intended to treat nicotine addiction in clinics across the country. I am hopeful that efforts will continue to ensure that these products are manufactured in a safe and standardized manner and that more detailed evidence based guidelines emerge to help clinicians as they continue to work with their patients.”

    This is another crucial step to wider acceptance by the public, and it's something that vapers can do themselves.

    Sounds like Dr. Nickels didn’t get exactly the results he was hoping for. Doctors who see their patients over the course of years witness the damage smoking does in a way public health officials and anti-nicotine ideologues rarely do. They come to understand that anything is better than smoking, and are more than willing to make trade-offs for harm reduction. When they learn how much safer vaping is, they are unlikely to be swayed by the anti-vaping crusaders.

    What vapers need to do is make their physicians aware of the Royal College of Physicians report that shows vaping to be far safer than smoking, and urges doctors to recommend e-cigarettes to their patients. This is another crucial step to wider acceptance by the public, and it’s something that vapers can do themselves. Imagine the impact on American public health when 98 percent — instead of 38 percent — of doctors are urging smokers to switch to vaping.

    Jim McDonald
    Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy