Younger people have long been vulnerable to tobacco use, may experience greater harm from nicotine and other drugs, and may be targeted by tobacco advertisers and marketers.
E-cigarette devices are still relatively new compared to other tobacco products, such as combustible cigarettes and piper drugs, and may be targeted by tobacco advertisers and marketers.
s, so more research is needed to try to better understand the popularity of e-cigarettes, including reasons for vaping and the associated health risks among youth.
The researchers conducted an online survey among 2,505 teens and young adults, ages 13-24, to gauge mental health differences among nicotine-only vapers, THC-only vapers, dual vapers of both nicotine and THC, and people who had never vaped any product.
The study was focused on 1,921 people who had never vaped or were current vapers, defined as having vaped in the past 30 days. Of those participants, 562 individuals reported they had never vaped, 370 had vaped only nicotine, 159 had vaped only THC, and 830 were dual vapers of nicotine and THC.
Effects of Nicotine and THC
The analysis found that approximately 70% of the THC-only vapers and 60% of the nicotine-only vapers and dual vapers reported experiencing anxiety symptoms such as worries, flashbacks, panic attacks, and situational anxieties within the past week, compared to about 40% of participants who had never vaped.
Over half of the nicotine-only vapers, THC-only vapers, and dual vapers reported experiencing symptoms of depression such as difficulty engaging in or being interested in activities normally enjoyed within the past week, compared to 25% of non-vapers.
More than 50% of people in all vaping groups reported having suicidal thoughts within the past 12 months, compared to only one-third of the non-users.
About a quarter of the dual vapers and nicotine-only vapers started vaping nicotine to calm down or feel less stressed, and one-third of participants in both groups reported that they currently vaped nicotine to cope with feelings of anxiety. In contrast, about half of THC-only vapers started vaping THC and currently vaping THC to relieve anxiety symptoms.
Around 20% of nicotine-only vapers and dual vapers started vaping to help them feel less depressed and currently vaped for this reason. About one-third of THC-only vapers started vaping THC and nearly half currently vaped TCH to feel less depressed.
Dual vapers of nicotine and THC were also significantly more likely to say they felt less depressed after they started vaping, whereas nicotine-only vapers were more likely to report that vaping had no impact on their feelings of depression. This may be related to dual users’ stronger addiction to these products, rather than the positive impacts of the products on their mental health.
Although we knew that THC was commonly vaped, they were surprised to have so many dual vapersmore than double the nicotine-only vapers. Dual use may either compound the addictive nature of vaping or attract people who are more prone to addiction, as well as have an impact on symptoms of depression.
How to Tackle Vaping Addiction
These findings suggest the importance of addressing the use of THC and the need for building resilience and coping skills for teens and young adults.
When better coping skills are developed, there may be fewer temptations to try to manage anxiety symptoms and similar mental health challenges through vaping, as well as better refusal skills if offered an electronic cigarette.
Increased priority on more positive behaviors to alleviate tension and manage anxiety symptoms may reduce the likelihood of vaping, possible addiction, and the increased risk of negative health outcomes.
There is also an urgent need for effective communication campaigns and educational programs to increase understanding among youth and young adults of the risks of using e-cigarettes. Future research is needed to examine the long-term connections between mental health and vaping, whether nicotine-only, THC-only, or both nicotine and THC.