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Scientists Link Vaping To a New Health Problem in Gen Z

Vaping has often considered to be a safer alternative to smoking. But some experts have questioned the health impacts of electronic cigarettes, particularly among teenagers and young adults.

Researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, found that young people who use e-cigarettes are more than twice as likely to report experiencing chronic stress than their non-vaping piers.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, roughly one in seven high school students in the U.S. use e-cigarettes, as of 2022. This equates to 2.14 million young people nationwide.

Previous studies have associated e-cigarettes use with potential risk of lung disease, asthma, damaged blood vessels and heart disease. Now, researchers have found vaping may negatively impact young people’s mental health too.

Stock image of a woman vaping. Around one in seven high schoolers in the U.S. say they vape regularly.

The study looked at data from the Canadian Health Measure Surveys, of 905 people between the ages of 15 to 30 years old, the 115 who vaped were more likely to report experiencing extreme chronic stress. It also found that young people who vaped were more likely to be physically active.

What is not clear is whether vaping causes stress or is used as a coping mechanism by people who are already in a stressful situation. Or maybe it’s a bit of both, trapping the user in a cycle of stress-induced vaping and vaping-induced stress.

Either way, chronic stress can bring with it a range of physical and mental health impacts.

“Chronic stress can lead to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression,” Teresa To, a senior scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children who led the study, said in a statement.

“We [also] know that stress induces oxidative stress and inflammation in the body and these play an important role in the risk of developing chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress can also lead to chronic fatigue, obesity, digestive issues and immune system disorders. High levels of stress may also result in absent or more painful periods in teenage girls and women, and reduced sperm motility in men.

The results will be presented on September 12 at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Milan, Italy.

Whether vaping is a cause or consequence of stress is still unclear, but either way, it is important to limit chronic stress where you can, especially in young people. So here are four tips to reduce stress levels:

  1. Set boundaries with stressors
  2. Spend time with friends and family
  3. Stay active
  4. Spend time in nature

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