Data on associations of history of mental illness (HMI) with smoking and vaping in New Zealand (NZ) are lacking. This study examines these associations in university students aged 18-24 years.
Data came from a 2018 national cross-sectional study of university students and included information on demographic characteristics, smoking, vaping and participant health in the previous 12-months. χ tests compared patterns of smoking and vaping, and logistic regression assessed associations of HMI with smoking and vaping, controlling for age, gender and ethnicity. An HMI was defined as a diagnosis/treatment for depression, anxiety/nervous disorder, or other mental health condition in the previous 12-months.
The sample comprised 1293 students: 61.3% aged 18-20; 62.8% female; 7.8% Māori, 92.2% non-Māori, and 18.5% reported an HMI. Smoking: 49.7% (95% CI 47.0-52.5) reported ever, 10.5% (8.9-12.3) current and 5.0% (3.9-6.4) daily smoking. Vaping: 38.7% (36.0-41.4) reported ever, 6.3% (5.1-7.8) current and 1.9% (1.3-2.8) daily vaping. Participants with HMI were significantly more likely to smoke: ever (64.9% vs 46.3%, p < .001), current (15.1% vs 9.5%, p = .011) and daily (7.5% vs 4.5%, p = .050), and vape: ever (49.4% vs 36.3%, p < .001) and current (9.2% vs 5.7%, p = .044) than participants without HMI. The model containing all predictors of HMI was significant, χ (5, N = 1293) = 24.09, p < .001. Gender (OR 0.54, (0.4-0.75)), current smoking (OR 1.82, (1.19-2.78)) and current vaping (OR 1.73, (1.02-2.93)) made unique significant contributions to the model.
The prevalence of smoking and vaping were significantly higher in students with HMI, and there were strong associations between HMI and smoking and vaping.

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