Two million teenagers in the United States are regularly “vaping” marijuana – that is, getting the THC delivered via electronic vaporizers typically used to deliver nicotine.
Electronic cigarettes, or “E-cigarettes,” or “E-cigs” have been a thing for a decade or so, and are mostly used to deliver nicotine to the user. Considered a safer alternative to smoking tobacco, the devices burn oil, often flavored, into an ingestible vapor that the user sucks into their lungs. The process is colloquially referred to as “vaping.”
Federal authorities have been concerned with teenagers using those products for nicotine, but now another danger has emerged: teenagers using the devices to ingest marijuana.
As The Seattle Times reports, a new survey of high school students shows that one in 11 has “vaped” marijuana at some point. That means that around 2 million teens have used e-cigs filled with cannabis oil to get high.
This presents two concerns for health officials. First, the teens are using cannabis at all; and second, that vaping cannabis and vaping nicotine go hand in hand.
As for cannabis, the jury is still out on the effects of the drug on teenagers, largely due to the fact that cannabis remains a Schedule I Controlled Substance in the United States at the federal level. That means that there is little to no federal money available for research on the subject.
Still, as Katrina Trivers of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains, the prevailing wisdom is that cannabis use is likely damaging to teenagers’ developing brains.
“Cannabis use among youth can adversely affect learning and memory and may impair later academic achievement and education.”
The other concern is the connection between e-cigarettes and nicotine; that is, authorities are concerned that teenagers who vape cannabis may also be vaping nicotine or at least become more likely to vape nicotine.
University of Michigan researcher Richard Miech says that the effects of ingesting vaporized oil still aren’t fully understood. He’s also concerned that teens who vape may be tempted by other drugs.
“The health risks of vaping reside not only in the vaping devices, but in the social environment that comes with it… hanging out with drug users is a substantial risk factor for future drug use.”
Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is losing patience with E-cigarette manufacturers, whom the agency says is contributing to the problem by offering their products in a variety of flavors, making their products more appealing to teens, according to AOL News. To that end, the agency has given cigarette manufacturers 60 days (from September 12) to come up with a solution, else the agency will ban flavored nicotine products altogether.