Use of Tobacco Products and Suicide Attempts among Elementary School-Aged Children

Phil H. Lee, Brenden Tervo-Clemmens, Richard T. Liu, Maia B. Gersten, Jae Yoon Jung, Amy C. Janes, Jodi Gilman

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Importance: The use of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vaping, has rapidly increased among children. However, despite consistent associations found between smoking cigarettes and suicidal behaviors among adolescents and adults, there are limited data on associations between emerging tobacco products and suicidal behaviors, especially among preadolescent children. Objective: To examine whether the use of tobacco products is associated with nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI), suicidal ideation (SI), and suicide attempts (SAs) among preadolescent children. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cohort study, conducted from September 1, 2022, to September 5, 2023, included participants in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study, a population-based cohort of 11868 US children enrolled at 9 and 10 years of age. The cross-sectional investigation focused on 3-year periods starting from the baseline to year 2 of follow-up. Statistical analysis was performed from October 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023. Main Outcomes and Measures: Children's use of tobacco products was assessed based on youth reports, including lifetime experiences of various nicotine-related products, supplemented with hair toxicologic tests. Main outcomes were children's lifetime experiences of NSSI, SI, and SAs, assessed using the K-SADS-5 (Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for the DSM-5). Multivariate logistic regression was conducted to examine the associations of the use of tobacco products with NSSI, SI, and SAs among the study participants. Sociodemographic, familial, and children's behavioral, temperamental, and clinical outcomes were adjusted in the analyses. Results: Of 8988 unrelated study participants (median age, 9.8 years [range, 8.9-11.0 years]; 4301 girls [47.9%]), 101 children (1.1%) and 151 children (1.7%) acknowledged lifetime use of tobacco products at baseline and at 18-month follow-up, respectively. After accounting for various suicide risk factors and potential confounders, children reporting use of tobacco products were at a 3 to 5 times increased risk of SAs (baseline: n = 153 [adjusted odds ratio (OR), 4.67; 95% CI, 2.35-9.28; false discovery rate (FDR)-corrected P <.001]; year 1: n = 227 [adjusted OR, 4.25; 95% CI, 2.33-7.74; FDR-corrected P <.001]; and year 2: n = 321 [adjusted OR, 2.85; 95% CI, 1.58-5.13; FDR-corrected P =.001]). Of all facets of impulsivity measures that were significant correlates of use of tobacco products, negative urgency was the only independent risk factor for SAs (adjusted OR, 1.52 [95% CI, 1.31-1.78]; FDR-corrected P <.001). In contrast, children's alcohol, cannabis, and prescription drug use were not associated with SAs. Conclusions and Relevance: This study of US children suggests that the increased risk of SAs, consistently reported for adolescents and adults who smoke cigarettes, extends to a range of emerging tobacco products and manifests among elementary school-aged children. Further investigations are imperative to clarify the underlying mechanisms and to implement effective preventive policies for children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E240376
JournalJAMA Network Open
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 26 2024

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