New Study Finds Teenage Vapers are Three Times More Likely to Try Marijuana
An August 17th article in Japan Today reports a new study on vaping and marijuana use in teens. E-cigarette use has been on the rise in recent years among former smokers, who were able to use them as a quit smoking aid. While they are not as good as full cessation, this method of tobacco harm reduction is seen as preferable to regular cigarettes.
E-cigarettes do not use burnt tobacco. Instead, nicotine and flavourings are placed into a mixture of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin. A battery then sends power to a coil inside a tank or pod, which heats the vapour into an aerosol for inhalation.
Unfortunately, teenagers see this difference as evidence that e-cigarettes are completely safe. Although we will be hard-pressed to find anyone – expert or not – who thinks vaping is just as dangerous as smoking, it is nonetheless not meant for minors.
Now, recent research finds a connection between teen vaping and marijuana use. Based on its results, e-cigarette use in the teenage years makes them three times more likely to try marijuana.
One thing we have to consider, however, is how deep this connection really goes.
A “Gateway Drug” to Marijuana?
According to Japan Today, researchers got their information by examining 21 studies on vaping and marijuana use. It found a clear correlation between vaping and marijuana use:
“Researchers examined data from 21 previously published studies with more than 128,000 participants ages 10 to 24. Overall, young people who used e-cigarettes were 3.5 times more likely to use marijuana, the analysis found.”
However, the biggest jump was among those aged 12 to 17, who were determined to be 4.3 times more likely to try marijuana after vaping.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Nicholas Chadi, points out that the supposedly benign nature of e-cigarettes is what gets kids started. He also mentions something rather compelling – one that literally flips the “marijuana is a gateway drug” argument right on its head:
“What this study suggests is that e-cigarettes (most of which contain nicotine) should be considered harmful, in a similar way as other substances like alcohol and tobacco, which have also been associated with increased marijuana use.
Japan Today further adds:
“Vaping in combination with smoking traditional cigarettes was also more strongly connected to marijuana use than vaping alone.”
Individuals who consume nicotine through e-cigarettes and tobacco are known as “dual users.” This practice negates any potential harm reduction associated with vaping.
But what makes the findings particularly interesting is, if the connection between tobacco, alcohol and marijuana is true, then the real “gateway drugs” are the legal ones consumed on a daily basis.
But therein lies the question: is vaping, smoking or alcohol really to blame for teenaged marijuana use?
Anti-vaping and anti-cannabis activists are likely going to cite this study for years to come. To be fair, they are not wrong when they assert that vaping (let alone marijuana) is not meant for minors. But the correlation here may not reflect a causal link.
For example, Japan Today says:
“None of the smaller studies in the analysis were controlled experiments, so they could not prove that vaping directly impacts marijuana use. Researchers also didn’t examine the health outcomes associated with vaping.”
Furthermore, the study’s definition of “marijuana use” among youth is rather broad, leaving actual frequency of consumption out of the picture:
“Another limitation of the study is that researchers looked at all marijuana use – whether it was trying a single joint one time at a party ages ago or an ongoing daily habit – so it wasn’t possible to see how vaping might impact the frequency of marijuana use.”
Still, there is at least a somewhat solid theory behind the supposed (albeit unproven) link. According to Japan Today:
“…it’s possible that experimenting with e-cigarettes might make young people more curious about marijuana, reduce perceived harm of marijuana use, and increase the social access to marijuana from peers and friends.”
This also raise the question as to how easily teens will jump from vaping standard e-liquids to marijuana ones, once they become available to the public.
WeedAdvisor’s Dedication to Youth Safety
While WeedAdvisor has a strong vested interest in the cannabis industry, we also understand – and happily admit – that there are safety concerns.
This is precisely why youth have no business being in possession of marijuana products. As supporters of marijuana businesses and government regulators, we aim to educate the public in a balanced way, giving parents and youth alike the tools to understand and mitigate the potential damage associated with controlled substances, be they e-cigarettes or marijuana.
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