Doctors don’t know whether they should encourage smokers to switch to e-cigarettes

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The survey of more than 500 cancer specialists, GPs and nurses found more than half said they did not know enough about vaping to make recommendations to their patients.

It comes despite advice from Public Health England (PHE) which suggests the devices are at least 95 per cent less harmful than cigarettes.

Researchers asked medics if they would recommend e-cigarettes to cancer patients who had continued to smoke after their diagnosis.

Smoking increases the risk of treatment complications, disease recurrence, and the development of further tumours, increasing the risk of death.

The study found that 29 per cent of health professionals said they would not recommend patients switched to e-cigarettes, while 25 per cent did not know if they were safer than smoking.

Researchers said that health workers need more training, to help them advise patients better.

The new survey, presented to the 2018 National Cancer Research Institute Conference in Glasgow, found most of those polled either did not know if their hospital had any guidance on the matter, or thought they did not.

Lead researcher Dr Jo Brett, from Oxford Brookes University,said: “Smoking is a well-established risk factor for many common cancers. It is the single biggest avoidable cause of cancer in the world.

E-cigarettes | Helpful or harmful?

Almost 80,000 people a year die of a smoking-related illness and smoking costs the NHS £2 billion a year. 2.6 million people use e-cigarettes in the UK and they are now the most popular quitting aid.

  • Public health officials are at odds with scientists over whether or not e-cigarettes are safe.
  • In August, Public Health England issued a report concluding that e-cigarettes were 95 per cent less harmful than conventional tobacco and urged Britain’s eight million smokers to start vaping.
  • But health experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Liverpool claim evidence used in the report was flawed, based on inconclusive evidence which was tainted by vested interests.
  • Writing in the BMJ, Professor Martin McKee and Professor Simon Capewell said there was no reliable evidence to show that e-cigarettes were safe or that they did not provide a ‘gateway’ to smoking for youngsters.
  • Although the PHE report was welcomed by bodies like Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and the Royal College of Physicians of London, other leading health bodies – including the British Medical Association, the UK Faculty of Public Health, the European Commission and the World Health Organization, have expressed caution.
  • “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.”

    Martin Dockrell, PHE’’s tobacco control lead, said: “E-cigarettes aren’t risk free but they are far less harmful than tobacco and it’s important for healthcare professionals to talk to patients about this.

    “That’s why as part of our NHS Smokefree campaign, we’re encouraging professionals to take free, online courses offered by the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training.”

    Young people who deem them as a ‘safe’ option and may otherwise have never experimented with tobacco could be at risk of later tobacco use

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