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Survey of GPs' understanding of tobacco and nicotine products

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Purpose ‐ Despite substantial declines in cigarette smoking in England since the 1970s, around 20 per cent of the adult population still smokes. In Sweden, 10 per cent of adult males and 12 per cent of adult females smoke cigarettes, while snus use is prevalent among 19 per cent of adult males and 4 per cent of adult females. Traditional cessation-only approaches may need to be supplemented with broader tobacco harm reduction measures to reduce smoking prevalence further. General practitioners (GPs) are well placed to give patients advice on tobacco harm reduction. This paper seeks to address these issues. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The authors administered an online survey to assess knowledge, perceptions and attitudes to tobacco and nicotine products to 220 GPs (100 in England and 120 in Sweden). Findings ‐ Most GPs (96 [96 per cent] England, 115 [98 per cent] Sweden) addressed smoking cessation with patients as part of their regular practice. Most GPs (87 [87 per cent] England, 102 [85 per cent] Sweden) felt extremely or fairly knowledgeable about the risks associated with cigarettes, but less so about nicotine in tobacco products and pharmaceutical nicotine. When asked to rank various products on a risk continuum, GPs rated cigarettes as riskiest and tobacco cessation and nicotine-containing products as least risky. However, when asked to rank components of cigarettes based on their health risks, GPs ranked nicotine as the third riskiest (74 [74 per cent] England, 104 [87 per cent] Sweden), after tar and carbon monoxide, but before smoke or tobacco. When asked questions about a hypothetical nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) product that looks like a cigarette and is licensed for harm reduction, GPs perceived that sensory experience and tobacco harm reduction could be benefits to patients, but perceived appeal to children and risk for abuse could be drawbacks. Originality/value ‐ Most respondent GPs are well informed about the relative risks of nicotine and tobacco, but more research needs to be done to investigate their concerns over the long-term substitution of cigarettes with alternative nicotine products.
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Keywords: General practitioners; Harm reduction; Nicotine; Tobacco

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 7, 2013

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