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E-cigarette usage has grown significantly in recent years, with over 5 million US middle and high school students reporting recent usage. The long-term health consequences of these devices are still being investigated, but it is known that e-cigarette aerosol could contain harmful substances including nicotine, heavy metals, and carcinogens. Therefore, it is important for physicians to ask patients about e-cigarette usage specifically, as this may contribute to future health problems. The goal of this study was to investigate if and how medical students screen for e-cigarette usage. Screening language was reviewed in standardized patient encounters, which are a type of assessment that medical students undergo in order to observe how they interact with simulated patients. Video-taped patient encounters were coded to examine the specific phrasing of questions related to tobacco usage, including initial and follow-up questions. The majority of students (97%) did not ask about e-cigarettes specifically. Most students (66%) simply asked, “Do you smoke?” Overall, the evidence shows that e-cigarette and vaping device usage is not being addressed specifically in these interactions. These results demonstrate a need for updated patient screening in regards to tobacco use. Because the majority of e-cigarette users report not knowing that the product contains nicotine, physicians must be made aware of their unknown effects on patient outcomes and the need to screen specifically about e-cigarette usage separately from smoking. Continuing medical education may also help address this gap since many cohorts of practicing physicians were training before the popularity of these types of devices.
e-cigarette; tobacco; medical students; smoking; MERA
Schmidt, Michael A.; Noonan, Emily J.; and Weingartner, Laura A., "Screening for E-cigarette and Tobacco Use in Standardized Patient Encounters" (2020). Undergraduate Arts and Research Showcase. 30.