E-Cigarette Reviews and Rankings

Vast Majority of American Doctors Believe Nicotine Causes Cancer, Shocking Survey Reveals

A recently-published survey conducted by a team from the prestigious Rutgers University shows that over 80% of American physicians have serious misconceptions about nicotine.

We’ve known for quite a while now that the constant negative coverage of vaping by the mainstream media has resulted in a generally negative perception of electronic cigarettes by the general public, but I never imagined that trained medical staff, including doctors had even worse misconceptions about various aspects of vaping. A survey conducted by researchers at Rutgers University between September 2018 and February 2019 and designed to explore physicians’ knowledge and communication about tobacco use revealed some pretty shocking results.

The survey, which interviewed 1,058 doctors from six specialties – family medicine, internal medicine, OB/GYN, cardiology, pulmonary/critical care, and hematology/oncology – 496 of which proved ineligible (were not seeing patients). Doctors were asked questions from different tobacco-related domains, like tobacco treatment practices, harm reduction beliefs, and tobacco/e-cigarette knowledge, and were also asked to rate if they agreed or disagreed with several statements about nicotine.

It was this last section of the Rutgers study that produced the most shocking results, with the vast majority of respondents “strongly agreeing” that nicotine causes diseases like cancer, heart disease or COPD.

The survey results showed that 80.5 percent of physicians “strongly agreed” that nicotine causes cancer, and 6.3 percent “somewhat agreed” with that statement, 80.9 percent “strongly agreed” that nicotine causes COPD and 5.2 percent “somewhat agreed”, and 83.3 percent of respondents “strongly agreed” that nicotine causes cardiovascular disease, while 8.4 percent of them “somewhat agreed” with that.

Comparatively, only about a third of surveyed physicians (32.6 percent) “strongly agreed” that nicotine causes birth defects, and 30.2 percent of them did not answer this question, which the authors see as a potential indicator of “do not know”.

“Nicotine is responsible for the highly addictive nature of tobacco products, but most tobacco-caused disease is not directly caused by nicotine, but rather by other chemicals present in tobacco or tobacco smoke,” the authors of the study wrote. “The strongest evidence for direct causality for nicotine is for birth defects (neuro-development), with only limited evidence supporting causal links to cancer and cardiovascular disease, and scarce data for COPD. Despite this, many misperceive nicotine as responsible for smoking-related health risks, like cancer.”

A similar study had found that 60% of nurses incorrectly perceived nicotine as carcinogenic, which was definitely disappointing, but definitely not as disappointing as learning that over 80 percent of doctors have such serious misconceptions about nicotine.

“While it is possible that some physicians may have misunderstood the question, results are consistent with other studies finding notable nicotine misperceptions,” the Rutgers University researchers wrote. “Correcting misperceptions should be a priority given that in 2017 the FDA proposed a nicotine-centered framework that includes reducing nicotine content in cigarettes to non-addictive levels while encouraging safer forms of nicotine use for either harm reduction or cessation.”

If doctors themselves don’t seem to be following the science on vaping and nicotine, what hope is there for legislators and politicians?

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