NCRI 2018: Health professionals go against public health guidelines regarding e-cigarette use

New research has demonstrated that despite guidelines from Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians, 29% of health professionals would not recommend e-cigarettes to cancer patients as an alternative to smoking.

Although evidence suggests that e-cigarettes pose health risks themselves, they are shown to be far less harmful that tobacco smoking, which is currently one of the leading causes of cancer.

View all of our 2018 NCRI Cancer Conference coverage here.

To continue smoking after a cancer diagnosis can increase the risk of treatment complications, cancer recurrence and the chance of developing a second primary tumor; each leading to an increased mortality risk.

The recent study was presented at the 2018 NCRI cancer conference (4—6 November 2018, Glasgow, Scotland) by Jo Brett from Oxford Brookes University (UK).

Brett and her colleagues surveyed 506 health professionals from across the UK, including 103 GPs, 102 oncologists, 100 cancer surgeons, 103 practice nurses and 99 cancer nurse specialists.

Of those surveyed, 29% said they would not recommend e-cigarettes as an alternative, over half said they did not know enough about e-cigarettes  to feel confident in making a recommendation and a quarter did not know e-cigarettes were less harmful. Additionally, 46% said they did not feel like they had any guidance from hospitals regarding advice they should give and 45% commented that they did not know such guidance existed at all.

“E-cigarettes are now the most popular intervention for smoking cessation in the UK. However, little is known about health professionals’ knowledge and attitude towards e-cigarettes and whether they are endorsing use of e-cigarettes with cancer patients” Brett comments.

The researchers suggest that these findings highlight a need for clearer guidance for doctors and nurses in regards to smoking and the recommendations that they give patients.

“These results suggest that there’s a lack of clear policy on e-cigarettes at the local level. They also suggest a lack of awareness of existing evidence and national policy on e-cigarettes among doctors and nurses. This is coupled with a lack of time and inadequate training on smoking cessation in general, and specifically on e-cigarettes” continued Brett.

“Giving patients a clear message that they can reduce harm by switching from smoking to using e-cigarettes may help them cut down or quit smoking tobacco. This could help patients by reducing the risk of cancer recurrence, a second primary cancer or other complications.” Brett concludes.

Source: NCRI 2018 press release