Perceived safety of nicotine replacement
products among general practitioners and current smokers
in the UK: impact on utilisation
Despite Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) being effective
for smoking cessation, most smokers try to quit without
We tested the hypotheses that misperceptions of NRT safety
might limit both the proportion of smokers interested
in using NRT and the likelihood of it being prescribed.
During a study of 2062 UK residents, all respondents who
reported being smokers (30%; n=612) were asked about their
attitudes toward smoking and smoking cessation products.
Large proportions of the smokers agreed that "Stop
smoking products with nicotine are just as harmful as
cigarettes" (37%); and that NRT causes heart attacks
(30%), lung cancer (29%), strokes (26%) and asthma (22%).
Smokers who agreed that NRT is just as harmful as cigarettes
were slightly less likely to have used NRT in the past
(30% versus 38%; ns), and reported being less likely to
use it during future quit attempts (14% versus 38%; p
< .001) and being more likely to quit unassisted (56%
versus 42%; p.010). In a second study, 205 UK General
Practitioners (GPs) answered an internet survey that included
the same questions regarding the safety of nicotine and
NRT. While only 6% agreed that NRT is just as harmful
as cigarettes, a substantial proportion of GPs incorrectly
asserted that nicotine in cigarettes causes CVD (51%);
strokes (49%) and lung cancer (41%).
The GPs who misperceived the safety of NRT were less likely
to prescribe it (47% versus 61%) but this difference was
not significant. These findings suggest that safety misperceptions
impede the adoption of NRT in cessation attempts.
Wandsworth PCT, London