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Cannabis Vaping Among Teens Has Doubled Since 2013, Study Finds

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Oct 26, 2021   
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More adolescents are vaping cannabis than ever before, according to a new review of scientific studies.

Published in JAMA Pediatrics, the review found that the proportion of teens who admit to vaping cannabis at least once more than doubled between 2013 and 2020, from 6.1 percent to 13.6 percent.

The proportion of adolescents with a regular habit of vaping the drug (vaping within the past 30 days) also increased by seven times in the same period, from 1.6 percent to 8.4 percent.

Vaping on the rise

To get their findings, the researchers from the University of Queensland, Australia, reviewed 17 existing studies into the cannabis habits of teenagers in the US and Canada. In total, the studies had surveyed 198,845 adolescents over the past decade.

When the data were collected and analyzed, the authors found that cannabis vaping among teens had increased in recent years, according to several measurements. The proportion of teens admitting to past-year use, for instance, more than doubled from 2017 to 2020, from 7.2 percent to 13.2 percent.

The prevalence of vaping was also higher in older adolescents compared with their younger counterparts, irrespective of survey year.

As for the reasons behind this rise in teen vaping, the authors of the review posit that adolescents have simply followed the trend of young adult cannabis consumers, many of whom now also prefer to vape rather than smoke cannabis. The perceived safety of vaping relative to smoking may also play a role in the results.

However, according to the researchers, it’s unlikely that adolescents restrict their method of cannabis use to one medium. Substantial overlap is thought to exist between vaping and smoking marijuana.

In their conclusion, the authors of the review stress that public health interventions will be needed to curb this rise in teen vaping.

“Because cannabis oil contains a greater level of THC than cannabis flower products, intervention and prevention measures are urgently needed, such as better regulation of cannabis vaping products and bans on advertising that targets young people to mitigate the increasing prevalence of cannabis vaping among adolescents.”

Vaping bad

Obviously, this isn’t the first study to claim that teens are taking up cannabis vaping; many of the individual studies cited in the review had already made that claim when they were published.

In one study published in 2019, for instance, researchers found that the prevalence of students using cannabis e-cigarette rose from 11.1 percent in 2017 to 14.7 percent in 2018.

Many studies have also linked a rise in adolescent cannabis use with wider cannabis legalization.

A recent survey study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found significant increases in lifetime and past-30-day cannabis use among nearly all demographic groups post-legalization in California.

However, other recent studies have found that legalization promotes the opposite effect. Published in the American Medical Association in 2019, one study found that US states that legalized recreational cannabis were associated with an 8 percent fall in the number of high school-age teenagers who claimed they used cannabis in the last 30 days.

“I think the big takeaway is that we find no evidence that teen marijuana use goes up after legalization for medicinal or recreational purposes,” Mark Anderson, an associate professor at Montana State University and lead author of the study, told Analytical Cannabis at the time.

“We view this as a very important result from a policy perspective because opponents often claim that teen use will skyrocket after these laws are passed. Based on our analysis, this has simply not been the case.”


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