A new study reveals that there are similarities between nicotine and cannabis vaping use in teens and young adults, and that they are mostly used at the same rate. Many reported using both substances, and those who reported vaping nicotine at a younger age also reported to have used cannabis. 

The results took into consideration age, parental education level, gender, race, and ethnicity as it assessed the rate of vaping use for both cannabis and nicotine. All of these questions were asked in the self-reported surveys the youth participants completed. 

This study, which was published by JAMA Network Open, looked at instances of use from teens and young adults in the United States. It took data from students at high schools across Los Angeles at six-month interviews as they went through their last two years of high schools, then a year or two after finishing high school. 

“Growth mixture modeling (GMM) was used to identify latent trajectories of vape use. Parallel GMM was used to assess co-occurrence of nicotine and cannabis vaping trajectories,” the survey says regarding the method used to identify comparisons that were not readily obvious to those looking for patterns. 

“For each nicotine-use vaping trajectory, the probability of being classified in a cannabis-use vaping trajectory ranged from 68% to 93% depending on the frequency of nicotine vaping,” the study claimed. “These findings suggest that addressing polysubstance vaping in public health policy and showing the potential benefits of prevention efforts in young adulthood in addition to adolescence are important.

The Results

Overall the results revealed that boys were more likely to vape nicotine during adolescent years than girls. It also noted that Hispanic- and Latino-identifying people were less likely to start using cannabis or nicotine vapes during adolescence. Of all the participants surveyed and asked, vaping of both nicotine and tobacco was current. 

Those who claimed to vape more tobacco, overall, also vaped more cannabis. While the survey admittedly has some issues, including only relying on self-reported data, this was pretty much the only option for a study of this type, even despite the risk of underreporting behavior. 

“In this study…[a] significant proportion of individuals initiated and participated in both nicotine and cannabis vaping during young adulthood, suggesting that research is warranted to identify developmentally appropriate interventions,” the authors said in their conclusions. “Further study of the substantial polysubstance vaping observed between nicotine and cannabis vaping trajectories [is also] needed to develop more effective regulatory practices and interventions.

“By examining co-occurring nicotine and cannabis vaping trajectories, this study was able to show that most individuals classified into a nicotine-use vaping trajectory were also classified into a cannabis-use vaping trajectory.”

Overall, the study reveals that cannabis and tobacco vaping are done at a similar rate in young adults as well as in teens. This is not surprising, as both are legal in many states, and is a relatively subtle way to use both substances before one is of legal age, or in areas where smoking is not allowed. It will be interesting to follow these numbers as legalization continues to spread.

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