New survey data sheds light on the continuing scepticism of e-cigarettes among healthcare professionals, despite the NHS and Public Health England (PHE) endorsing them as a smoking cessation tool.

In a survey conducted by Research Now Group, 500 GPs and pharmacists were asked to detail their levels of knowledge about e-cigarettes, as well as their attitudes toward the product and whether or not they’d be likely to recommend it as a viable stop-smoking tool.

The results found that 99 per cent of these healthcare professionals had an “extremely high awareness” of e-cigarettes but only 7 per cent were aware of PHE’s stance – that e-cigarettes are 95 per cent safer than smoking conventional cigarettes.

Nearly one in five (19 per cent) of respondents said they consider e-cigarettes to be “very harmful,” with a whopping 34 per cent of GPs – and 25 per cent of pharmacists – believing that nicotine alone is “very likely to contribute to the development of smoking related diseases.”

As the study’s authors point out, these attitudes are in direct conflict with NHS and PHE guidelines which suggests that more healthcare professionals ought to be recommending the use of e-cigarettes to smokers looking to quit.

Speaking about PHE’s 2018 evidence review into the safety of e-cigarettes, Professor John Newton, director for health improvement at PHE, said:

“Our new review reinforces the finding that vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking, at least 95% less harmful, and of negligible risk to bystanders. Yet over half of smokers either falsely believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking or just don’t know.

“It would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about their safety.”

Despite this, 13 per cent of GPs and 19 per cent of pharmacists said in the survey that they were “not very likely” to advise patients try an e-cigarette.

These attitudes seem to have influenced people’s chosen methods for quitting smoking as, according to PHE, the proportion of quit attempts using an e-cigarette in English stop smoking services was very low, at just 4.1 per cent.

In a Vaping in England evidence update from February this year, PHE said:

“Smokers should be advised to stop smoking as soon as possible and explore all available options for support, including e-cigarettes.”

The survey of GPs and pharmacists was commissioned by Philip Morris International.