About one-third of college students use electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), and about half of the students increased their vaping during the COVID-19 lockdowns, according to study findings published in Respiratory Care.
Researchers analyzed the vaping behavior of students at 2 universities during the COVID-19 pandemic and assessed potential correlates of vaping patterns, including depression, living situation, and reasons for vaping.
The observational, cross-sectional study included undergraduate and graduate students who were enrolled at the University of Tampa (UT) in Florida and the IST University of Applied Sciences in Germany at the time of the survey in February 2021.
A 31-item, self-reported questionnaire assessed demographic characteristics (age, sex, ethnicity, and university location), type of vaping products, vaping behavior, vaping experience, reasons for vaping, and associated factors such as living situation and depression.
[T]he results reveal a need for strategies and interventions to prevent further addictive behavior as vaping is a gateway to nicotine addiction.
Among the 656 respondents who were included, their mean [SD] age was 22 [4.3] years, 22.6% were male, 72% were female, 0.6% were gender nonconforming, and about 71% were from the US. Of the cohort, 203 participants used ENDS and 453 did not.
A total of 192 students from UT (41.4%) and 11 students from IST (5.7%) reported that they had vaped within the previous 30 days before the survey was conducted. Among the 203 ENDS users, 70.9% identified as female, 24.6% as male, and 1% as gender nonconforming.
Nearly half of the respondents stated that they had increased their vaping since the universities went online (47.3%), 16.3% decreased their vaping, 10.3% said there was no change in their vaping behavior, and 6.9% stopped use of ENDS.
A total of 376 responses were considered positive experiences, and 26.1% of students reported that they had no positive experience. The most-reported positive experiences were nicotine high (34.5%), head rush (33.0%), and better concentration (22.2%). A total of 529 students reported having negative experiences associated with vaping within the previous 30 days, most commonly related to addiction (47.3%), cost (31.0%), and coughing (24.1%).
Stress relief (n=28) and addiction (n=44) were noted as the primary reasons for participants who increased smoking. Among those who initiated use of vaping for the first time, weight loss was a common reason (n=16).
Most responders stayed in nonindependent housing, and these findings were not significant (P =.63). In addition, the depression scores of the groups were not statistically significant (P =.10).
Study limitations include the small sample size and retrospective assessment of data. Also, socially desirable responses are more likely with self-report assessments, and a nonresponsive bias cannot be excluded for some of the datasets. Furthermore, the study design allows no causal implications.
“[T]he results of this study emphasize the need for interventions especially for smokers and ex-smokers prone to relapse in highly stressed situations to prevent
an increase in the use of ENDS,” said study authors. “[T]he results reveal a need for strategies and interventions to prevent further addictive behavior as vaping is a gateway to nicotine addiction,” they added.