Persons with mental health conditions found more likely to use e-cigarettes

May 13, 2014
Credit: TheNorlo/Wikipedia

Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report that people living with depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions are twice as likely to have tried e-cigarettes and three times as likely to be current users of the controversial battery-powered nicotine-delivery devices, as people without mental health disorders.

They are also more susceptible to trying in the future in the belief that doing so will help them quit, the scientists said. The FDA has not approved e-cigarettes as a cessation aid.

The study will be published in the May 13 online issue of Tobacco Control.

"The faces of in America in the 1960s were the 'Mad Men' in business suits," said lead author Sharon Cummins, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. "They were fashionable and had disposable income. Those with a smoking habit today are poorer, have less education, and, as this study shows, have higher rates of ."

By some estimates, people with psychiatric disorders consume approximately 30 to 50 percent of all cigarettes sold annually in the U.S.

"Since the safety of e-cigarettes is still unknown, their use by nonsmokers could put them at risk," Cummins said. Another concern is that the widespread use of e-cigarettes could reverse the social norms that have made smoking largely socially unacceptable.

The study shows that smokers, regardless of their mental health condition, are the primary consumers of the nicotine delivery technology. People with also appear to be using e-cigarettes for the same reasons as other smokers – to reduce potential harm to their health and to help them break the habit.

"So far, nonsmokers with mental health disorders are not picking up e-cigarettes as a gateway to smoking," Cummins said.

The study is based on a survey of Americans' smoking history, efforts to quit and their use and perceptions about e-cigarettes. People were also asked whether they had ever been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, depression or other mental health condition.

Among the 10,041 people who responded to the survey, 27.8 percent of current smokers had self-reported mental , compared with 13.4 percent of non-smokers; 14.8 percent of individuals with mental health conditions had tried e-cigarettes, and 3.1 percent were currently using them, compared with 6.6 percent and 1.1 percent without mental health conditions, respectively.

In addition, 60.5 percent of smokers with mental health conditions indicated that they were somewhat likely or very likely to try e-cigarettes in the future, compared with 45.3 percent of smokers without mental health conditions.

"People with conditions have largely been forgotten in the war on smoking," Cummins said. "But because they are high consumers of cigarettes, they have the most to gain or lose from the e-cigarette phenomenon. Which way it goes will depend on what product regulations are put into effect and whether e-cigarettes ultimately prove to be useful in helping smokers quit."

Explore further: Smoking cessation may improve mental health

Related Stories

Smoking cessation may improve mental health

February 11, 2014

Health professionals who treat people with psychiatric problems often overlook their patients' smoking habits, assuming it's best to tackle depression, anxiety or substance abuse problems first. However, new research at Washington ...

Smoking's toll on mentally ill analyzed

April 17, 2014

Those in the United States with a mental illness diagnosis are much more likely to smoke cigarettes and smoke more heavily, and are less likely to quit smoking than those without mental illness, regardless of their specific ...

Singaporeans defy ban on e-cigarettes

April 25, 2014

Singaporeans are defying a ban on electronic cigarettes despite stiff fines for distributors and smugglers, health authorities said Friday.

Recommended for you

Young adults found displaying symptoms of net addiction

October 17, 2014

In 2012, Allen Frances, MD, professor emeritus and former chair of the department of psychiatry at Duke University, cautioned that "Internet Addiction" could be the next new fad diagnosis, complete with "an exuberant trumpeting ...

Can 'love hormone' oxytocin protect against addiction?

March 19, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Researchers at the University of Adelaide say addictive behaviour such as drug and alcohol abuse could be associated with poor development of the so-called "love hormone" system in our bodies during early ...

Nicotine vaccine prevents nicotine from reaching the brain

May 2, 2012

If smoking a cigarette no longer delivers pleasure, will smokers quit? It's the idea behind a nicotine vaccine being created by MIT and Harvard researchers, in which an injection of synthetic nanoparticles prompts the immune ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.