Contrary to popular opinion, research has shown that e-cigarettes can be as harmful as traditional tobacco products.
In a study first, of its kind, researchers aimed to assess the national use of e-cigarettes among adults with disabilities. Dr. Gilbert Gimm led the study.
E-cigarette use among working-age adults (18-64 years) with and without disabilities (n = 560,858) was assessed by using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor and Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey (2017-18).
They found that adults with disabilities were two times (8.4%) more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults without disabilities (4.8%). This prevalence of e-cigarette use varied by type of disability.
Gimm explains "Previous studies have found that e-cigarette use is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, depression, and adverse health outcomes. Also, smokers with disabilities are less likely to receive advice from their physicians to stop smoking,"
He adds that since adults with disabilities are a high-risk group for e-cigarette use, they are also at greater risk for adverse health outcomes.
Findings also showed that e-cigarette use was, compared to adults without disabilities (4.8%), almost thrice as likely in adults with a cognitive disability (12.0%), an independent living disability (11.0%), or two or more disabilities (9.2%).
Adults with disabilities who previously smoked were also more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults with disabilities who never smoked.
"We know from prior studies that adults with cognitive disabilities have higher rates of mental health conditions such as severe depression and anxiety, and we think this might be a reason for greater e-cigarette use among this population," adds Gimm.
Since detailed information on mental health conditions wasn't available in this sample, researchers hope future research can shed light on this.
In general, men are more likely to use e-cigarettes than women, and young adults (18-24 years) are six times more likely to use e-cigarettes than middle-aged adults (45-54 years). Adults with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or depression were also more likely to use e-cigarettes.
This study highlights that smoking cessation treatments for adults with cognitive disabilities and other high-risk groups are highly needed.