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People with mental health issues more likely to turn to e-cigarettes

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TUESDAY, May 13, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- People with mental health disorders are more likely to use electronic cigarettes, a new study finds.

People with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions were two times more likely to have tried e-cigarettes, according to the study. They were also three times more likely to be current users of e-cigarettes than people without mental health disorders.

E-cigarette users with mental health disorders tend to use the electronically powered nicotine delivery devices for the same reasons as other smokers -- to try to quit smoking.

People with psychiatric disorders consume approximately 30 percent to 50 percent of all cigarettes sold annually in the United States, the researchers noted.

"People with mental health conditions have largely been forgotten in the war on smoking," study author Sharon Cummins, an assistant professor in the department of family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, said in a university news release.

"But because they are high consumers of cigarettes, they have the most to gain or lose from the e-cigarette phenomenon. Which way it goes will depend on what product regulations are put into effect and whether e-cigarettes ultimately prove to be useful in helping smokers quit," she added.

The researchers also found that smokers -- regardless of their mental health status -- are the main users of e-cigarettes.

More than 10,000 Americans were surveyed by the study authors, who found that nearly 28 percent of current smokers said they had mental health conditions, compared with about 13 percent of nonsmokers.

About 15 percent of people with mental health disorders had tried e-cigarettes and about 3 percent were currently using them, compared with 6.6 percent and about 1 percent, respectively, among those without mental health conditions.

More than 60 percent of smokers with mental health disorders said they were likely or very likely to try e-cigarettes in the future, compared with about 45 percent of smokers without mental health conditions, according to the findings published online May 13 in the journal Tobacco Control.

The researchers noted that e-cigarettes are controversial and have not been proven to help people stop smoking tobacco cigarettes.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about e-cigarettes.

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