Does Vaping Cause Anxiety?

E-cigarettes have been the most frequently used tobacco products by young people since 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Also called vaping, the use of e-cigarettes — or any tobacco use — is known to harm developing brains. Using products like vaping devices is especially harmful to adolescents, as they are highly addictive and can lead to issues with memory, attention, and learning (via U.S. Food and Drug Administration). 

In 2020, 1 in 20 middle school students reported that they vaped in the past 30 days, and 1 in 5 high school students reported the same (via CDC). And in 2018, over 8 million adults used e-cigarettes, according to another finding from the CDC. Vaping is widely used by children and adults alike.

Vaping differs from smoking in that it heats and vaporizes a liquid that can contain nicotine or cannabis products, resulting in inhaling aerosol particles that can cause lung damage and produce heavy metal toxicity (via Baylor College of Medicine). E-cigarettes can look like regular cigarettes, USB drives, pens, and regular everyday items (via CDC).

While some may think vaping is a safe alternative to smoking, that's not true. E-cigarettes often contain much higher amounts of nicotine than combustible cigarettes (via Baylor College of Medicine). Since some nicotine cartridges can contain as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes (like the popular brand JUUL), it's clear that the dangers of vaping are vast.

So how does vaping relate to anxiety?

While vaping isn't necessarily directly related to anxiety, it does have implications for mental health. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, there is a significant association between e-cigarette use and major depressive disorder. And among college students who vape, there is a high prevalence of issues like ADHD, PTSD, gambling disorder, anxiety, low self-esteem, and impulsivity (via a study published in Annals of Clinical Psychiatry).

In general, the use of any product with nicotine can be harmful to mental health. As individual nicotine use grows and continues, the eventual nicotine withdrawal increases feelings of stress and anxiety (via SmokeFree). It can also exacerbate symptoms of depression, as nicotine "interrupts the cerebral dopamine pathway" (via Baylor College of Medicine). However, these negative effects of nicotine use on mental health can potentially be reduced. According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, it was observed that mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and stress improved when users quit nicotine products.