Are E-Cigarettes Increasing Marijuana Use?

Some teenagers are using electronic cigarettes for more than a nicotine buzz, new research shows.

Teenagers who have smoked e-cigarettes have also used the battery-powered devices to vaporize and inhale cannabis, according to a Yale University study published in the journal Pediatrics this week.

Researchers surveyed more than 3,800 high-schoolers in Connecticut, where Yale is based. About 28 percent of these students reported using e-cigarettes. Of those users, almost 19 percent reported having used e-cigarettes to vaporize marijuana.

Lead author Meghan Morean, an assistant professor of psychology at Oberlin College who conducted the research while at Yale, states in a news release:

“This is a relatively novel way of using marijuana, and kids are using it at a fairly high rate. …

“The smell of vaping marijuana isn’t as strong as smoking it. Plus, the similarity in appearance of hash oil and nicotine solutions make this a really inconspicuous way of using marijuana.”

E-cigarettes have a heating element that is activated when a user inhales. The heat vaporizes a liquid nicotine solution, but many e-cigarettes are designed such that a user could substitute marijuana byproducts like hash oil, according to the Yale study. Some companies also sell e-cigarettes designed for use with marijuana leaves or wax infused with THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

Morean and senior author Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, a psychiatry professor at Yale, note that vaporizing liquid marijuana can be “much more potent” than smoking dried marijuana leaves.

The authors conclude that their findings “raise concerns about the lack of e-cigarette regulations and the potential use of e-cigarettes for purposes other than vaping nicotine.” But they also note that the survey did not assess whether using e-cigarettes leads to more marijuana use in teens, so additional research would be needed to make such a connection.

Are you surprised by the percentage of high-schoolers who report using e-cigarettes to smoke marijuana? Sound off below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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