According to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, teenagers across the country are increasingly using electronic cigarette vaporizers to inhale marijuana.
Participants included about 4,000 high school students in Connecticut. Of the students who said they have used both marijuana and e-cigarettes, 27% said they have used the devices to smoke pot of some form, including hash oil and wax infused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), writes Larry Hand for Reuters. Those found to be most likely to do so include male and younger students, although socioeconomic status was not found to be an influence.
Co-author Meghan Rabbitt Morean said that although e-cigarettes are meant to vaporize nicotine-containing substances, she added that “teenagers are resourceful, and it was only a matter of time.”
She went on to say that the devices more easily allow students the opportunity to hide what they are smoking, writes Christine Rushton for USAToday.
“We now know it’s happening, but there are more questions about who is using and how damaging it is,” Morean said.
E-cigarette users have criticized the survey, arguing that the results may not accurately reflect the actions of teenagers across the country because survey participants all reside in the same state, said Phil Daman, President of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association and attorney for Daman & Associates.
His group stands firm in their belief that underage youth should not use vapor products.
“While some teens experiment, it’s vital that parents and guardians talk to their children about not using any age-restricted products including vapor products,” Daman said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have linked marijuana usage to a number of health problems, including short-term memory loss, slow learning, decreased sperm count and lung damage.
A report in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research found that e-cigarette use in youth rose by more than 200% between 2011 and 2013, with about 2 million middle and high school students reported trying the devices in 2013. Survey participants had not tried regular cigarettes.
Morean said similar studies are planned for additional states with the hopes of offering national data that will provide a more accurate picture of what is happening across the country. Dustin Lee, a postdoctoral fellow at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, said that despite the small sample size, the findings were still troublesome because they hint at an increased usage of the drugs in teens at a time when that it critical “for development of brain structures that are integral in executive functioning.”