UNC physicians have published a survey stating that more research must be done about the practice that physicians have taken of recommending electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, as a means of quitting smoking for patients.

The Associate Director for Tobacco Prevention and Evaluation Program at UNC and leading author on the study, Dr. Leah Ranney, gave a brief summary about the study.

“We did a study of North Carolina providers, and we asked physicians about their attitudes towards e-cigarettes,” she says.

The study, entitled “Physicians’ Attitudes and Use of E-Cigarettes as Cessation Devices,” analyzed 128 North Carolina physicians regarding their opinions of e-cigarettes. 67 percent of the physicians surveyed said that they believe substituting e-cigarettes for regular cigarettes is a helpful alternative, and 35 percent submitted that they do recommended their use to patients.

The study found that physicians were likely to suggest e-cigarettes when asked about it by their patients or when the physician concluded e-cigarettes were safer than the use of common cigarettes.

“Our research actually provides one of the first looks at how e-cigarettes are being used as tobacco cessation devices among physicians who treat adult patients,” says Dr. Ranney. “We also found that over two-thirds of physicians believe that e-cigarettes were a helpful aid for smoking cessation, and over one-third reported recommending these e-cigarettes to their patients.”

Despite the recommendations, physicians have been found to possess information about e-cigarette safety that is inconsistent; the survey demonstrated that 13% of physicians do not know that e-cigarettes are not FDA approved.

“As e-cigarettes become more popular, physicians are going to be called upon to engage in conversations with their patients about the safety of these products, as well as their utility for tobacco cessation,” says Dr. Ranney. “We believe that FDA should provide physicians with clear guidelines about e-cigarette use, including health impacts and their effectiveness as a tobacco cessation tool.”

Dr. Ranney says that there is more research coming out everyday about the facts of e-cigarettes that will hopefully allow physicians to better understand them and if they should continue to be recommended to patients that wish to stop smoking.

To read the study, click here.