The latest results of an annual survey to determine rates of youth drug use show that cannabis vaping by teens has reached a new high. In its report, “Monitoring the Future,” the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan found that e-cigarette use among young people has also increased in 2019 while the use of opioids, alcohol, and tobacco cigarettes has declined.

Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which funds the study, expressed concern at the increase in vaping by teens.

“The most salient finding, in my brain at least, is the very marked increases in vaping that we’re seeing in teenagers, and it’s vaping both for nicotine and vaping for THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana,” said Volkow.

“The rates of increase in vaping that we have observed in teenagers actually surpasses anything that we have seen in the past, which is basically highlighting that vaping has basically been embraced very, very promptly by teenagers,” she added.

The report is based on data from an annual survey that tracks the use of drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes and related attitudes by U.S. students in the eighth, 10th, and 12th grades. This year, the survey consisted of responses from 42,531 students attending 396 public and private schools across the country.

The survey showed that 20.8% of 12th-graders, 19.4% of 10th-graders, and 7% of eighth-graders had vaped marijuana in the previous month. For the first time, this year’s survey also asked about daily vaping of cannabis, finding that 3.5% of 12-graders, 3% of 10th-graders, and 0.8% of eighth-graders reported vaping marijuana on a daily basis.

E-Cigarette Use Also Up

The survey also found that 11.7% of 12th-graders vaped nicotine products daily. Richard Miech, the lead investigator for the report, said that educational programs to help discourage vaping by young people should be increased.

“Current policies and procedures to prevent youth vaping clearly aren’t enough,” Miech said in a press release. “We need new policies and strategies to prevent unscrupulous businesses from making billions of dollars by addicting children to nicotine. Because the vaping industry is quickly evolving, new, additional, vaping specific strategies may well be needed in the years to come in order to keep vaping devices out of the hands of youth.”

Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, agreed, saying that the growth in vaping and marijuana use among young people is “a major concern.”

“We also should double down our efforts on the other adolescent addictions to ensure they continue to decrease,” Benjamin said. “The recently agreed upon increase to age 21 for both combustible tobacco and e-cigarettes included in the appropriations bill being voted on this week is an additional needed step.”

The increase in vaping by adolescents comes at a time when the country is still reeling from the string of lung injuries associated with vaping that has hospitalized thousands and caused dozens of deaths. Researchers believe the crisis may lead to a decrease in vaping by young people in next year’s survey.

“We predict that next year that awareness that vaping of THC is associated with these acute lung injuries may lead to actually a reduction of vaping among teenagers,” Volkow said. “We will find out.”

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