Health & Studies

Pregnant Adolescents Switch To Vaping

A new study from the University of Buffalo discovered that more pregnant adolescents have switched from smoking to vaping and that it has no negative impact on birth weight

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A new study from the University of Buffalo has been published by JAMA Substance Use and Addiction. The paper’s authors discovered that more pregnant adolescents have switched from smoking to vaping, which is surprising for the United States given the war on evidence and truth. The team also found that the use of vapes did not negatively impact birth weights – mirroring similar studies conducted in the United Kingdom.

The researchers say they were interested in vaping among pregnant adolescents since more adolescents in general use vapes than use combustible cigarettes.

Dr Xiaozhong Wen, first and senior author on the paper and associate professor of Pediatrics in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB, said: “We know that there has been a rapid increase in e-cigarettes among adolescents in recent years. But there’s limited research on e-cigarette use among pregnant adolescents, a subpopulation with high health vulnerability, since these expectant mothers are still kids themselves.”

The research was conducted as an observational study of data gathered from 10,428 pregnant people through the U.S. Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) between 2016 and 2021.

Wen and his colleagues found that exclusive use of e-cigarettes among pregnant adolescents more than quintupled, from 0.8% in 2016 to 4.1% in 2020, while the exclusive use of combustible cigarettes in this population fell from 9.2% in 2017 to 3.2% in 2021. That spike, he says, is partially the result of a trend toward replacing combustible cigarettes with e-cigarettes, as they are seen as a safer nicotine product, with exclusive use of e-cigarettes during pregnancy highest among white adolescents.

The researchers were especially interested in the potential impact of how e-cigarette use by pregnant individuals might impact the growth of the baby. While it’s generally accepted that conventional smoking correlates with small-for-gestational-age weight babies, the impact of e-cigarettes on the weight of a baby has not been well studied.

Dr Wen continued: “Experimental studies in animals suggest that prenatal nicotine exposure can restrict foetal growth, possibly through reduced blood flow to the uterus and placenta. However, evidence of how the baby might be affected when a pregnant person uses nicotine replacement therapy such as patches, gums, nasal sprays, tablets or lozenges is not conclusive. E-cigarettes share some features with nicotine replacement therapy products, such as delivering nicotine in the absence of combustion.”

The study found no statistically significant difference in the risk of small-for-gestational-age birth among pregnant adolescents who either used e-cigarettes exclusively or used both e-cigarettes and combustible cigarettes, compared to those who did not use either product; however, the risk was twice as high among pregnant adolescents who exclusively smoked combustible cigarettes as among those who did not use either product.

Wen says that while the study’s findings support the use of e-cigarettes over combustible cigarettes as a less risky option among pregnant adolescents, there is a better option.

He concluded: “The healthiest choice is complete abstinence from any tobacco/nicotine products. E-cigarettes have a potential role in assisting existing cigarette users to discontinue smoking as a transitional aid. However, e-cigarette use should eventually be discontinued as well.”


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Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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