Patients’ Prompting Has Led to More Doctors Recommending Alternative Products to Quit Smoking

Patients’ Prompting Has Led to More Doctors Recommending Alternative Products to Quit Smoking


A study in Jama Network Open revealed that more U.S cigarette smokers ask their doctors about e-cigarettes and other alternative nicotine products. As a result, more physicians are recommending them – despite a majority remaining misinformed about the effectiveness of harm reduction.

Unlike in the U.K, where physicians are encouraged to consider e-cigarettes as an option for helping patients quit smoking and support smokers who wish to try them, the U.S has been slow to promote tobacco harm reduction. So, how do physicians communicate with their patients about alternative nicotine products?

Physicians play a primary role in patient smoking cessation. However, their communication regarding alternative nicotine products is not well understood. Up until recently, the limited research on communication between patients and doctors has indicated that while doctors weren’t likely to recommend alternative nicotine products, they’d be open to it if the body of evidence increased. To assess physician-patient communication about e-cigarettes, researchers surveyed 2058 U.S physicians between 2018 and 2019.


While more than 60% of physicians believed all tobacco products to be equally harmful, doctors who were recommending alternative nicotine products to their patients seemed to have a few things in common: they had previous experience with smoking, were generally supportive of harm reduction, and/or had been asked about alternative products by their patients.


This new study appears to show that more humanizing factors could influence physicians’ recommendations and that they are learning from their patients about alternative nicotine products. Physicians being asked by patients about e-cigarettes was found to be associated with an increased likelihood of recommending them.


Furthermore, the study emphasizes the importance of understanding physicians’ perspectives on alternative nicotine products as a means for harm reduction. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated its support for a nicotine reduction approach, it is critical that the agency, to advance its efforts, correct physician misperceptions regarding the relative harm of various nicotine products.