According to new data presented at the British Thoracic Society (BTS) Winter meeting, over one in five GPs hold misconceptions over the safety of nicotine in stop smoking products which impacts upon their likelihood to prescribe such products to their patients1.

Currently, available data demonstrates that nicotine, delivered without the other constituents of tobacco smoke, has minimal adverse health consequences2,3. However, research presented today revealed that 22% of GPs worried that nicotine stop smoking products are just as harmful as cigarettes, with over 40% confirming they believed that these products may cause cardiovascular disease, stroke (40%) and lung cancer (25%)1.

Despite clear evidence showing that NRT use can double quit rate success (compared to placebo)4, the research demonstrates that GPs still hold concerns about the safety of nicotine in NRT, which can affect the treatment choice they make for their patients1. The data also show that GPs who are concerned that NRT may be as harmful as continued smoking are less likely to prescribe these products than GPs who do not share these beliefs (61% vs 47%)1.

Presenting this research at the BTS Winter meeting Dr David Halpin, Consultant Chest Physician, Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, highlighted, "GPs are often the first port of call for cessation advice. As such, it is vital they are encouraging their patients to use these effective products, and proactively explaining they are safer than continuing to smoke. This research is important as it uncovers a real need to ensure that GPs concerns are urgently addressed."

This data builds on related patient research presented at the UK National Smoking Cessation Conference (June 2005), which showed that large numbers of smokers are also confused about the safety of NRT products. This research found that over two thirds of smokers (69%) believe nicotine stop smoking products are as harmful as cigarettes. Importantly, only 14% of these smokers planned to use NRT during their next quit attempt. In contrast, 38% of the smokers who stated that nicotine stop smoking products are less harmful than cigarettes did plan to use NRT 5.

Dr Alex Bobak, a GP smoking cessation specialist, comments on these findings, "In the run up to New Year, practices will start to see increasing numbers of patients seeking advice on smoking cessation. It is important that these patients receive accurate advice on using NRT, including being given clear reassurance on the safety of these products. We know NRT doubles the chance of quitting long-term, and when combined with behavioural support, quit rate success can be improved ten-fold compared to quitting unaided6."

Ruth Bosworth from QUIT, an independent charity, dedicated to helping smokers stop, concludes, "Through working with smokers on a daily basis we understand the challenges they face when embarking on a quit attempt, and we know that many quitters need reassurance over the safety of nicotine stop smoking products. We welcome this research, as it has helped to highlight the need for GPs to ensure they give smokers clear guidance on the benefits and safety of using nicotine stop smoking products to make a successful quit attempt."


1. Oral presentation by David Halpin. Perceived safety of nicotine replacement products among general practitioners in the UK: impact on utilisation. British Thoracic Society Winter meeting, 7-9 December 2005

2. Benowitz Nl. Summary: Risks and Benefits of nicotine. Nicotine Safety and Toxicity; p 185-195 NY: OUP

3. Hoffman and Hoffman. The Changing Cigarette, 1950-1995. Journal of Toxicity and Environmental Health 1997; 50: 307 - 64

4. Percival J. Clearing the air 2. Smoking and tobacco control - an updated guide for nurses. London: Royal College of Nursing 2002

5. Nicotine Misconceptions in UK Smoking. Research undertaken by TNS. August 2004

6. Action on Smoking and Health: the case for commissioning smoking cessation services, WHO Europe Partnership project and Smoke Free London, July 2001.


Tag Cloud