Many GPs (general practitioners) hold the view that one of the greatest health risks from smoking is nicotine, a new survey has revealed.
This belief likely influences health advice to smokers when considering whether to recommend the use of alternative nicotine products.
Nicotine is the addictive component of tobacco smoke, but unlike some other constituents of tobacco smoke, it is not carcinogenic and according to the UK Royal College of Physicians, 'medicinal nicotine is a very safe drug.
Switching to alternative nicotine products such as nicotine gums and electronic cigarettes can, therefore, help many smokers quit smoking or cut down, thereby reducing exposure to tobacco smoke and the associated harm.
But the views held by some GPs in both the UK and Sweden may influence their willingness to recommend the use of alternative nicotine products to help smokers quit outright or to cut down to quit.
The survey, commissioned by British American Tobacco, involved administering an online survey to assess the knowledge, perceptions and attitudes to tobacco and nicotine products of healthcare professionals in the UK and Sweden and to understand what types of advice in relation to the use for alternative nicotine products are being offered to smokers
The study participants (100 UK, 120 Sweden) were asked about the risks associated with tobacco and nicotine products, smoking cessation and tobacco harm reduction approaches, and influential sources of information.
The majority of survey respondents said that they regularly discussed smoking cessation with their patients, but less than half believe that long-term NRT is preferable to smoking.
The survey findings show that a substantial proportion of GPs (40%) believe nicotine to be the first or second riskiest component of cigarettes, incorrectly identifying it as more harmful than smoke.
Many also wrongly believe that nicotine in tobacco products is associated with cancer, while 15% in the UK and 22 percent in Sweden believe the same for pharmaceutical nicotine.