Amidst the booming e-cigarette trend, a team of researchers has found that the teens with moderate emotional health problems do not smoke, but they may vape.
Lead author Adam Leventhal from the University of Southern California said that mental health and behavioral problems such as alcohol and drug abuse are well-documented risk factors that push teens to smoke.
The situation, however, is different for teens who vape e-cigarettes, battery-operated devices that deliver flavors and often nicotine in the form of vaporized aerosols.
Surveyed teens who picked up vaping had emotional and behavioral problems that fell midway between smokers and teens who neither vaped nor smoked.
In the past three years, there have been dramatic increases in recreational use of e-cigarettes among teens, Leventhal said, adding that the study raises questions of whether e-cigarettes may be recruiting lower-risk teens with fewer mental health problems who might not have been interested in any nicotine or tobacco products if e-cigarettes did not exist. Electronic cigarettes could be bringing a population of lower-risk teens into nicotine use.
The study also found that teenagers who used prescription drugs to get high and those with more symptoms of depression, social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other emotional issues were more likely to smoke than to vape e-cigarettes.
The study is published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.