Study: Two-thirds of young e-cig users quit or cut back early in pandemic

Dec. 3 (UPI) — More than two-thirds of all teen and young adult e-cigarette users in the United States curtailed the habit or quit not long after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a study published Thursday by JAMA Network Open found.

Still, 18% increased their nicotine use, 8% increased their cannabis use and 7% simply switched to other smoking products when the new coronavirus began to spread last spring, the data showed.

The reductions may be due to the fact that schools — and many businesses — have been closed across the country as part of efforts to contain the virus, making it more difficult for some young people to access e-cigarette products, the researchers said.

“Adolescent and young adult e-cigarette users found it harder to access e-cigarettes,” study co-author Bonnie Halpern-Felsher told UPI.

Since the start of the pandemic, “the dominant source of purchasing e-cigarettes was online instead of brick-and-mortar [stores],” said Halpern-Felsher, founder and executive director of the Tobacco Prevention Toolkit and the Cannabis Awareness and Prevention Toolkit programs at Stanford University.

Recent research suggests as many as one in three high school students in the United States use e-cigarette, or vaping, devices.

For this study, Halpern-Felsher and her colleagues surveyed 4,351 adolescents and young adults ages 13 to 24 between May 6 and 14, when much of the country was in the grips of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the survey respondents, 2,167 had used e-cigarettes in the past year, the researchers said.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 32% of the e-cigarette users surveyed said they quit the habit, while 35% reported they had reduced their intake, the data showed.

Participants indicated that not being able to go to vape shops and “product unavailability” made accessing e-cigarettes difficult once the pandemic began, according to the researchers.

Up to 20% of teen and young adult e-cigarette users said they began to buy products online during the pandemic.

Many of the respondents age 21 and younger “were able to purchase e-cigarettes without any age verification,” whether they purchased the products online or in retail shops, Halpern-Felsher said.

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