HealthDay News — Doctors disagree on the best way to answer patient questions about electronic cigarettes, according to a study published online August 26 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Researchers analyzed 512 online discussions between doctors and patients about e-cigarettes. About 34% of patient questions were about the side effects and dangers of e-cigarettes; 27% were about general safety; and 19% about using e-cigarettes to stop smoking. Side effects and safety were also the most common topics that doctors raised.

About half of doctors’ answers to patient questions were negative, focusing on e-cigarette risks and advising patients not to use them. About 20% of answers were positive, such as using e-cigarettes as a tool to stop smoking traditional cigarettes. Asked specifically about quitting smoking, 54% of doctors mentioned e-cigarettes as a possible aid.

“Examination of online patient-provider communications provides insight into consumer health experience with emerging alternative tobacco products. Patient concerns largely related to harms and safety, and patients preferred provider responses positively inclined toward e-cigarettes,” the authors write. “Lacking conclusive evidence of e-cigarette safety or efficacy, health care providers encouraged smoking cessation and recommended first-line cessation treatment approaches.”

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