It’s no secret that teen e-cigarette use, or vaping, has skyrocketed in recent years. According to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, there was a 78% increase among high schoolers and a 48% increase among middle schoolers who used e-cigarettes. Rates rose so much that the FDA declared teen vaping an epidemic and many states are responding by raising their tobacco purchase age to 21.
E-cigarettes can cause a host of negative health consequences, especially for teens. Because most vaping devices contain tobacco, the nicotine present severely affects brain development and can cause extreme withdrawal cravings. It also affects the lungs and causes concentration problems, which can heavily impact academic and sports performance.
Perhaps one of the scariest things about vaping is that it can serve as a gateway drug for marijuana use. According to a recent study, “e-cigarette use independently predicts subsequent marijuana use among teens.” This study looked at people ages 12 and up and followed them over the course of two years.
Study participants were categorized as “ever users” (those who used) and “never users” (those who had not used) for both e-cigarettes and marijuana. They were examined in two waves: once at the beginning of the study and once at the end. This time span allowed for accurate analysis of marijuana and e-cigarette use over time.
A total of 11,996 young participants aged 12 to 17 completed both waves 1 & 2 of the survey. Some outstanding results of the study were as follows:
- More than 1 in 4 (26.6%) adolescents who ever used e-cigarettes at wave 1 reported subsequent marijuana use at wave 2, as compared with 7.7% of adolescents who never used e-cigarettes at wave 1
- E-cigarette ever users at wave 1 were more likely to report subsequent marijuana use at wave 2
- The association between baseline e-cigarette use and subsequent heavy marijuana use was significant among young adolescents
- At wave 1, never marijuana users had a significantly lower prevalence of e-cigarette ever use as compared with marijuana users (5.1% vs 46.4%)
From the results of this study, it is reasonable to gather that e-cigarettes can be a gateway for marijuana among young users. Although there is sure to be other causes, one thing is for certain, education about the dangers of both of these substances is vital.
Dai H, Catley D, Richter KP, et al. Electronic Cigarettes and Future Marijuana Use: A Longitudinal Study. Pediatrics. 2018;141(5):e20173787