Study Finds Most Doctors Have Misconceptions About Nicotine Risks
A new study led by researchers at Rutgers University has found that most doctors are under the misconception that it is the nicotine in tobacco products that directly causes cancer when it’s actually the various toxic substances that are found in cigarette smoke that have been linked to cancer.
While nicotine itself is addictive, it is only in more recent times with the rise of vaping and the decline of smoking that scientists have really begun to study it as a standalone chemical. As a result, there are recent studies that now suggest that nicotine may have a number of cancer-inducing effects, such as possibly speeding up cell growth, decreasing the tumor suppressor CHK2, and reducing the effectiveness of cancer treatment. However, it is, as previously noted, the various toxins contained within cigarette smoke and not the nicotine that serves as the primary health risk.
The study relied on survey data from September 2018 to February 2019 in which over 1,000 doctors were surveyed. Of those surveyed, which spanned across six specialties, 80% incorrectly responded that they believed nicotine to directly cause cancer.
Michael B. Steinberg, the medical director at the Rutgers Center for Tobacco Studies and the chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, said that doctors “must understand the actual risk of nicotine use as they are critical in the prescription and recommendation of FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapy products to help patients who use other dangerous forms of tobacco” and that they “should be able to accurately communicate these risks, which may include low-nicotine cigarettes, which are not safer than traditional cigarettes.”
Cristine Delnevo, the director at Rutgers Center for Tobacco Studies and a professor at Rutgers School of Public Health, said that it should be a priority to correct misperceptions in medicine while citing smokeless tobacco “for harm reduction.”
“Correcting misperceptions in medicine should be a priority given the FDA’s proposed nicotine-centered framework that includes reducing nicotine content in cigarettes to non-addictive levels while encouraging safer forms of nicotine like NRT, to help with smoking cessation or non-combustible tobacco, like smokeless tobacco for harm reduction.”
The results of this Rutgers-led study may shed light on why there are still doctors in the US and elsewhere that don’t recommend e-cigarettes to smokers when there is increasing evidence to suggest that vaping is far less harmful than smoking and that e-cigarettes are an effective smoking cessation.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has provided what the United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS) referred to as “the first concrete evidence” that e-cigarettes may be more effective than currently approved NRT products like nicotine patches and gum.
Following the findings of the widely publicized e-cigarette evidence review conducted by Public Health England, NHS has taken up the position that e-cigs, which are also known as vapes, are far less harmful than cigarettes and that they can help smokers quit smoking for good.
With electronic cigarettes, called e-cigs for short, there’s no burning of tobacco and there’s no production of tar or carbon monoxide, which are two of the most dangerous elements that are found in tobacco smoke. Instead, they heat up a liquid that typically contains nicotine, flavorings, and either vegetable glycerine, propylene glycol, or both.
Around the world, many smokers have already quit smoking with the help of e-cigarettes. However, vaping remains under siege from many, including some doctors that simply do not yet know the facts.