Marijuana Vaping Is on the Rise Among Teens
Sat, April 10, 2021

Marijuana Vaping Is on the Rise Among Teens

The ever-growing popularity of vaping among teens is causing the significant rise of marijuana use in 8th, 10th, and 12th graders / Photo by: Mariya Sorvacheva via 123RF

 

The ever-growing popularity of vaping among teens is causing the significant rise of marijuana use in 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, the annual Monitoring the Future report found. It's the first to measure how much teens vaped marijuana daily even at a time of an outbreak of vaping-related injuries.

Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse that funded the report, said the increase in teen vaping surpasses the observations made in the past and thus, "highlighting that vaping has been embraced very, very promptly by teenagers.

"The most salient finding, in my brain at least, is the very marked increases in vaping that we're seeing in teenagers, and it's vaping both for nicotine and vaping for THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana," Volkow added.

 

Hitting Record Highs

The University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research led a survey of 42,531 students from 396 public and private schools in the US for the Monitoring the Future report. They asked the participants about their use of drugs, alcohol, and cigarette as well as related attitudes.

Results of the survey showed a significant increase in teens vaping marijuana, with 14% saying they vaped the drug in the previous month. That's almost twice the rate from 2018 (7.5%) and also a dramatic rise from 4.9% in 2017, CNBC reported.

The survey also said that 22% of senior high school students reported using marijuana that can be smoked, vaped, or eaten. Vaping marijuana is also quite popular among 10th graders (19.4%) but not so much for eight graders (7%).

"It appears that kids are switching how they are using marijuana, not how much they are using marijuana," Ken Warner, a professor from the University of Michigan but was not involved in the study, told CNBC.

Findings of the survey revealed that 3.5% of 12th graders, 3% of 10th graders, and 0.8% of eighth-graders said they vape marijuana every day. Nicotine also remains popular among young vapers, with 12% of high school seniors said they vape nicotine within the last 30 days.

CNBC said the results highlight the popularity of vaping among teens, especially now that newer products allow them to consume nicotine and THC discreetly. These newer products also alter the taste of nicotine and THC, making them sweeter in different flavors to make vaping "more palatable" that may attract teens.

Teen Use of Other Illicit Drugs Remain Low

While teen use of marijuana surged in the past year, the use of other illicit drugs remained relatively low. The new report found only 3.6% of high school seniors used LSD, 3.3% used synthetic cannabinoids, 2.2% cocaine and ecstasy, and 0.4% heroin.

CNN reported a significant decline in 10th and 12th graders using alcohol with 37.7% and 52.1%, respectively, reported using the product. It added that a decline of 3.6% among 12th graders who smoked cigarettes daily (2.4%) was also noted.

However, e-cigarettes seemed to take the traditional tobacco's place as more teens turn to vape.

"Now we're seeing it on a daily basis," Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine and director of the University of California and who was not involved in the new study, told CNN.

"It usually takes years for kids to get from smoking cigarettes every once in a while up to daily use and the new generation of e-cigarettes is really accelerating that process," he pointed out.

Glantz called the report "important" with "very concerning findings." However, there are limitations to it including the fact that the researchers only surveyed teens who go to school and did not include out-of-school or drop-outs.

The results are also based on self-reported information from participants, making it subject to bias associated with self-reporting.

A Consistent Trend

The increases in vaping marijuana is a particular concern for people studying the possible health risks of vaping, especially that it comes when there is a spike in lung injuries associated with vaping illicit THC-containing products.

While the risk of disease is still lower in vaping, The Verge, an American technology news and media network, said e-cigarettes may still cause an increased risk of developing a respiratory ailment after three years of using the products.

Smoking rates among teens continue to go down but it's likely because they are shifting to vaping, which often adds on the harm that wasn't present when they used to smoke traditional cigarettes.

"Next year, I imagine, we’ll see an increase in the perceived risk [of vaping]," Richard Miech, co-investigator of the Monitoring the Future study, told The Verge.

The increase in the perceived risk of a substance usually causes the use of it to go down among teens, so the researchers are anticipating if there will be a decrease in vaping as risks associated with the product rise.

If it wasn't for the growing decline in kids smoking a cigarette, Miech said the use of marijuana would probably be at the highest rate today.

"But as smoking has gone down, it’s pulled down marijuana," he said. However, this pattern may change if more teens begin to vape marijuana.

"I think it’s too soon to tell," Miech added. "Vaping hasn’t been around that long. But it seems like it might."

The increases in vaping marijuana is a particular concern for people studying the possible health risks of vaping, especially that it comes when there is a spike in lung injuries associated with vaping illicit THC-containing products / Photo by: Sheila Fitzgerald via 123RF