Most youth who vape are trying to quit: UBCO

Youth vapers trying to quit

A recent study from UBCO show that the majority of youth who vape would rather not be.

According to Dr. Laura Struik, assistant professor in the UBCO School of Nursing and lead researcher of the study, more than 40 million people worldwide use vapes.

“Despite this growth in popularity, many current vapers admit they want to quit, particularly young Canadians. In fact, over 60 per cent of youth—ages 15 to 19—who vape reported trying to quit in the last year. Our study is the first to use the social media forum, Reddit, to find out how they are breaking this habit and how they can be best supported.”

Health Canada describes vaping as the act of inhaling and exhaling an aerosol produced by a vaping product, such as an electronic cigarette. Unlike cigarette smoking, vaping doesn’t require burning, rather, the device heats a liquid into a vapour, which then turns into an aerosol.

Dr. Struik and Youjin Yang, a recent UBCO Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduate, analyzed 1,228 public posts from 318 users on a “quit vaping” Reddit forum. The data was categorized into quitting methods, reasons for quitting, and challenges and facilitators to quitting.

“We chose social media to gather our data because this is where individuals, especially young people, the largest users of e-cigarettes, are sharing their experiences, including those about health,” says Dr. Struik.

The evaluation showed that negative health experiences were the main reason these people chose to quit. Shortness of breath, chest pain, wheezing and lack of sleep were among the symptoms that users complained about, which alarmed Dr. Struik.

“This is very different from the number one reason that smokers want to quit smoking, which is future health concerns,” she says. “We need to pay attention to these early adverse health effects. I’m particularly concerned by the impact of vaping on young and healthy lungs. That e-cigarette users are experiencing such intense negative health effects from vaping relatively early indicates that something different is going on biologically compared to smoking.”

Dr. Struik also notes the users mentioned severe withdrawal symptoms and dependency on nicotine as the top obstacle to quitting.

“This is not surprising given that the most popular e-cigarettes deliver very high concentrations of nicotine,” she says. “In addition, previous studies suggest that the developing brain, such as that seen in youth and young adults, is vulnerable to long-term nicotine addiction. This makes quitting harder for this population.”

For those who tried quitting, the data released from the study found over 65 per cent of them preferred a gradual reduction approach. This involved lowering the nicotine levels, followed by using different nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches and gum.

Vape users were outspoken about the need for self-grace and a positive self-concept as they engaged in the quitting process.

“Health promotion efforts should encompass messaging that does not shame those who vape or are struggling to quit; instead, we need to build each other up and support each other’s efforts in reducing exposure to health risks, like vaping.”

The study suggests online interventions may be most helpful for the group the study was conducted on, because most of them were young and are more drawn to digital platforms. It also reveals the approach to giving up vaping needs to be different from those who are quitting smoking tobacco.

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