Flemish General Practitioners Do Not Advise Electronic Cigarettes to Smokers, but Report a Need for More Evidence-Based Information
Electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) can help smokers to quit smoking. Unfortunately, perceptions among health professionals about the health effects, its efficacy as a smoking cessation aid, and the legislation on e-cigs have deteriorated and are not in accordance with the currently available evidence. To maximize the potential of e-cigs as a smoking cessation aid, it is important that health professionals acquire knowledge about these devices and their potential. We conducted a cross-sectional survey among Flemish general practitioners (GPs, n = 121). The main aims were 1) identifying the current perceptions on e-cigs among Flemish GPs, and 2) investigating if GPs report a need for more evidence-based information. Flemish GPs were on average 39 years old, female (57%), and had been practicing their profession for around 13 years. Only 5% of GPs was currently smoking. Flemish GPs were neither agreeing nor disagreeing on statements questioning their perceptions of the absolute risk, the relative risk of e-cigs compared to cigarettes, the dependency on e-cigs, e-cigs as a smoking cessation aid, the renormalization of smoking, and the media-attention of e-cigs. They did report a clear opinion that the legislation on e-cigs should be more strict. Only 19% of GPs advised e-cigs to their smoking patients. GPs (89%) prefer to receive information via an online course, a brochure or workshop. Flemish GPs do not advice e-cigs for smoking cessation, however, they do acknowledge a need for more evidence-based information. Opportunities lie ahead for study programmes to inform future health professions about e-cigs and their potential.