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E-cigarettes, alcohol use, and mental health in college students

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are often used by college students who also use alcohol. A recent study investigated patterns of e-cigarette use, alcohol use, and mental illness in college students.


631 students at a northeastern U.S. university participated in an online survey to assess their e-cigarette and alcohol use as well as their mental health status. They were also asked questions about their perception and knowledge about e-cigarettes.


Over 25% of the sample reported that they had used e-cigarettes. Those who drank alcohol were more likely to have used, and those within that population who drank heavily were even more likely to have used e-cigarettes. Most of the students who did report that they currently were using e-cigarettes indicated that they used them 10 or fewer days per month. Out of all students who smoked e-cigarettes and combustible cigarettes, the results showed a belief that e-cigarettes are less harmful, cheaper, more discreet and better tasting than combustible tobacco products.


Regarding mental health, the data showed that 33.6% of students who had mental health conditions had tried e-cigarettes, which is higher than the proportion of students without mental health disorders. Also, the results showed that students with substance use disorders (non-alcohol) were more likely to use e-cigarettes.


Take Away: Many college students use e-cigarettes with the same motivation found in studies of adults. Alcohol use and/or having a mental illness increase the likelihood of using e-cigarettes within college students.


Hefner, K.R., Sollazzo, A., Mullaney, S., et al. (2018). E-cigarettes, alcohol use, and mental health: Use and perceptions of e-cigarettes among college students, by alcohol use and mental health status. Addictive Behaviors. doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2018.10.040

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