December 26, 2019
2 min read

Marijuana e-cigarette use significantly increases among students

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Hongying Dai

Marijuana e-cigarette use increased by almost 4 percentage points among middle school and high school students from 2017 to 2018, according to study findings published in JAMA.

“Clinicians should discuss and educate youth on the harmfulness of vaping marijuana,” Hongying Dai, PhD, associate professor of biostatistics at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health, told Healio. “These statistics are concerning since marijuana use in adolescence could lead to adverse effects on brain development, mental health and academic performance.”

Dai examined responses from 38,061 students using the National Youth Tobacco Survey, an annual, cross-sectional, school-based survey of middle and high school children from grades 8 to 12. Survey response rates increased from 68.1% to 68.2% from 2017 to 2018.

Of the respondents, 49.1% were girls, 55.9% were high schoolers, 56.5% were non-Hispanic whites, 24.6% were Hispanic and 13% were non-Hispanic black. Prevalence of marijuana use in e-cigarettes among students increased from 11.1% (95% CI, 9.8%-12.5%) to 14.7% (95% CI, 13.35-16.1%) from 2017 to 2018, with 23.6% of students reporting having ever used an e-cigarette and 10.9% reporting current e-cigarette use.

The largest increase in marijuana e-cigarette use was observed among students who used tobacco products, from 33.2% to 40.6% (difference: 7.4%; 95% CI, 1.8%-13.1%); and students who lived with a household member who used e-cigarettes, from 22.7% to 29.5% (difference: 6.8%; 95% CI, 2.2%-11.4%).

“Given that e-cigarette use increased significantly from 2017 to 2019 among U.S. adolescents, and restrictions on marijuana use have been relaxing and social acceptability of marijuana use is shifting among youth, the results from this study are not surprising,” Dai said.

Previous study findings suggested youth who use e-cigarettes are 3.5 times more likely to use marijuana, and tetrahydrocannabinol in e-cigarettes was implicated as a contributing factor to the outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries in the U.S.

Dai attributed the increase in marijuana e-cigarette use to access to marijuana via informal sources, the increase in sales for pod mod-style e-cigarette products and a reduced perception of the dangers of marijuana use among adolescents.

“A limitation of the study is that the information was self-reported,” Dai said. “Longitudinal studies are needed to assess the acute and long-term health effects of vaping marijuana in e-cigarettes.” – by Eamon Dreisbach

Disclosure: Dai reports no relevant financial disclosures.