Study Links Youth Vaping to Stress. But is Vaping The Cause or The Response?

A group of researchers from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, found that young vapers were more likely to report experiencing chronic stress than their non-vaping peers.

The research team analyzed data from the Canadian Health Measure Surveys, of 905 people aged between 15 and 30. They found that the 115 participants who reported vaping were more likely to experience chronic stress, and also more likely to be physically active. The latter point was observed in another study and can be explained by the fact that most teens who vape are likely to be more health conscious than those who smoke.

With regards to the stress factor, while many vape studies are quick to infer a causation from a correlation, thankfully in this case the researchers acknowledged that the study does not show whether the vaping caused the stress or vice versa. In fact many studies have indicated the latter. Many consumers of nicotine use the substance in order to relieve stress.

The repercussions of using nicotine as a stress reliever
Another recent US survey of 2,650 vaping and non-vaping teens, parents and high school teachers, had concluded that vaping had a negative affect on users’ mental health and academic performance. Similarly in this case there was no reliable evidence of causation. In fact tobacco treatment expert and researcher Dr. Colin Mendelsohn, told Vaping Post that actually the opposite was true.

“Many studies have found that kids with mental illness, low academic achievement etc are more likely to vape. Vaping relieves stress and improves mood. In this survey 51% said they vape to relieve anxiety. The same findings apply to smoking.”

Many studies have found that kids with mental illness, low academic achievement etc are more likely to vape. Vaping relieves stress and improves mood. In this survey 51% said they vape to relieve anxiety. The same findings apply to smoking.”Dr. Colin Mendelsohn, Tobacco Treatment Specialist

The complex relationship between stress and nicotine consumption
In fact, the relationship between stress and the use of nicotine products is known to be complex and multifaceted, often intertwined with psychological, physiological, and behavioral factors. Many individuals turn to nicotine-containing products, such as cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or smokeless tobacco, as a coping mechanism in response to stress. Nicotine, a psychoactive substance found in tobacco, can temporarily alleviate stress by modulating neurotransmitter activity in the brain, leading to a sense of relaxation and heightened mood.

However, the association between stress and nicotine use is also said to be bidirectional, meaning that stress can increase the likelihood of nicotine consumption, while nicotine use can influence stress responses. Some scientists argue that chronic nicotine exposure can impact the brain’s stress response systems, potentially leading to increased susceptibility to stress over time.

While others emphasize that as the habit of smoking or using nicotine products becomes ingrained in daily routines, consumers may associate these behaviors with stress relief. Moreover, attempts to quit nicotine use can also be stressful, creating a cyclical pattern of stress and nicotine consumption.

While nicotine may provide short-term relief, it is essential to recognize that there are different nicotine products, and the long-term health consequences of combustible tobacco use outweigh its temporary stress-relieving effects. While the use of safer nicotine alternatives such as vapes and snus, should only be considered as a smoking cessation aid.

Besides safer, nicotine alternatives to cigarettes are even less addictive than cigarettes
In fact, another recent study analyzing data from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study identified three distinct types of tobacco/nicotine users: those primarily smoking cigarettes, those mainly using smokeless tobacco, and those predominantly using a combination of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and cigars. It concluded that smokers were more likely to develop an addiction than vapers and/or those who use a variety of nicotine products.

The research suggests the need for tailored tobacco cessation programs to address the diverse habits of users. Understanding which types of tobacco use lead to dependency is crucial for informing the design of effective cessation programs. For example, efforts aimed at reducing tobacco dependence might be most beneficial for individuals primarily smoking cigarettes, while interventions for other users could focus on transitions to safer alternatives.