New study indicates link between E-Cigarette use and depression

Vaping an Electronic Cigarette - Photo by:

A recently published longitudinal study (one in which the same subjects are studied over an extended period of time) has discovered evidence that the use of e-cigarettes is linked to depression. This is further bad news for e-cigarettes, which have previously been linked to explosions and lung disease.

The study was published this week in the current issue of Nicotine & Tobacco Research, and was carried out at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Research subjects were drawn from colleges and universities across the Lone Star State. Dr. Frank Bandera, the lead author of the study, says, “This is the first study to establish a longitudinal relationship between elevated depressive symptoms and e-cigarette use.”

The study involved a total of 5,445 students from 24 different institutions of higher learning all over Texas. These students had all exhibited signs of clinical depression. While use of e-cigarettes did not lead to depression, the results showed that those suffering from depression are more inclined to take up the habit. The reasons are unclear, however. Acknowledging the dearth of research on the subject, Dr. Bandera theorizes that it could simply be an attempt to find relief:

It may be self-medication. Just like with cigarettes, when students feel stressed out, using e-cigarettes may make them feel better. Or it could be that since e-cigarettes have been marketed as a smoking cessation device, depressed students may be using e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking traditional cigarettes.”

The results of the study come as somewhat of a surprise. While earlier studies have demonstrated a reciprocal link between traditional tobacco cigarettes and depression, the association with e-cigarettes appears to be one-way.

In the report, Bandera wrote, “Since e-cigarettes typically deliver less nicotine per puff than cigarettes, it is possible that the lower content of nicotine in e-cigarettes could explain the null findings.” He also points out that it may be that college students are using e-cigarettes in order to help them quit smoking – although science has not been able to establish any evidence that ecigs are effective as a smoking cessation aid.

The negative health effects of nicotine exposure on teens and young adults have long been established, and were the subject of a recent report by the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office. The potential for addiction is far higher with young people, which is why tobacco companies have long targeted the youth market. Data from the current study has been collected by the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science on Youth and Young Adults, and will be used in the development of research that will be the basis of future federal tobacco regulations.


Article written by K.J. McElrath