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New research sheds light on why college students in Mexico choose to vape

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Many smokers begin using tobacco products as young adults, and vaping—consuming tobacco through an e-cigarette or other device that typically uses a battery, heating element and a liquid to produce an inhalable aerosol—is the method of choice for this age group.

Users often believe that e-cigarettes are safer than regular cigarettes or can help smokers quit using cigarettes, but these claims are not supported by scientific research. As a result, many colleges and universities in the United States survey students on and offer information about the involved and support for those who want to reduce their risk.

Now, a study led by a researcher with the Texas A&M University School of Public Health along with colleagues in Mexico provides new insight into the attitudes of and perceptions of who vape at three universities in Mexico. The work is published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

"Like the United States, Mexico has implemented laws to curtail vaping, including a 2022 law that prohibits the manufacture, import, distribution, promotion and marketing of e-cigarettes and similar devices," said Genny Carrillo, MD, ScD, a researcher with Texas A&M's Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. "But today, the problem is bigger than ever."

Experts say more than a million adults and nearly 300,000 adolescents and in Mexico illegally purchase vaping devices each year—more than did so prior to the prohibition.

"In Mexico and around the world, vaping is increasing faster than the science can keep up with, and while little is known about the long-term effects of vaping, it is clear that e-cigarettes and similar devices expose users to numerous dangerous chemicals," Carrillo said. "We wanted to look at students' attitudes and perceptions, which are crucial in developing effective strategies against ."

For the study, Carrillo and Mexican colleagues Nina Mendez, MD, Ph.D., Javier Moran, Ph.D., and Maria E. Acosta, Ph.D., conducted a cross-sectional study using an of 495 undergraduate students at three universities in the Mexican states of Yucatan, Durango and Nuevo Leon. Respondents were asked about their vaping status: never vaped, former vapers and current vapers (those who vaped at least weekly in the past month).

Respondents' answers provided a deep understanding of their curiosity and intentions about vaping and the degree of peer influence on their decision to vape, as well as any intentions to quit, past attempts at quitting, usage patterns, cravings, difficulties encountered in restricting e-cigarette use, and reactions when they could not use e-cigarettes, such as feelings of irritability, restlessness and anxiety.

The survey results found that more women (289) than men (172) vaped. The estimated mean age of e-cigarette initiation was 17.3 years. Forty-four of the students reported that they vaped within one hour of waking up, and 13 reported waking up at night to vape. Participants reported that they began vaping because their friends or a relative did it, it was part of an effort to quit smoking and it was seen as less harmful than cigarettes.

In addition, they reported that they began vaping due to seeing marketing of these products in , because of the flavors, out of curiosity, because of tricks they could perform to entertain their friends, because of depression or sadness, or due to being desirous of experiencing the effects of nicotine.

"Due to Mexico's vaping ban, respondents reported being frustrated that they were not able to vape at their universities. They also reported that their campuses had no policies to provide education on vaping and did not enforce vaping bans," Carrillo said. "In addition, the ban of the sale of vaping products led students to buy e-cigarettes online or on the , which makes them more vulnerable to the dangers of contaminated or misrepresented products."

Carrillo said the findings highlight the need for education about vaping and could help shape vaping cessation strategies that emphasize the unique needs and attitudes of young adults. To that end, Carrillo and her colleagues currently are providing education at the three universities and identifying students who are interested in quitting.

More information: Genny Carrillo et al, Attitudes, Behaviors, and Perceptions of Students Vaping in Three Mexican Universities, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (2024). DOI: 10.3390/ijerph21040464

Citation: New research sheds light on why college students in Mexico choose to vape (2024, May 13) retrieved 20 May 2024 from
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