Nearly one in five high school students who said they used electronic cigarettes to vaporize nicotine also used them to vaporize pot, according to a survey of nearly 4,000 Connecticut teens.
The study, published on Monday in the journal Pediatrics, is the first evidence that teens are using electronic cigarettes to vaporize cannabis, the researchers said.
The paper by Meghan Morean of Oberlin College in Ohio and colleagues raises concerns that the rising popularity of e-cigarettes may encourage teens to use the devices to vaporize cannabis, potentially exposing them to higher concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
“Forms of cannabis that can be vaporized, like hash oil, can be many times stronger than marijuana that is smoked,” Morean said in an email.
A study released last month suggested U.S. teens who try electronic cigarettes may be more than twice as likely to move on to smoking conventional cigarettes than those who have never tried the devices.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2 million middle- and high-school students tried e-cigarettes in 2014, triple the number of teen users in 2013.
Morean and colleagues found that of students who had used e-cigarettes, 18 percent had used them to vaporize cannabis in some form, including hash oil and wax infused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive cannabis ingredient.
The study’s lead author said that marijuana used like this can have an even more damaging effect on people’s health, leading to lung damage, slow learning or short-term memory loss. The most worrying fact is that experts are not able to tell just how many people are doing it and what category of people is most at risk.
High school students in the study were 27 times as likely to use e-cigarettes to vaporize cannabis as adults who use e-cigarettes, the researchers said.
Even though this particular study was limited to Connecticut, it provides a disturbing snapshot of this dangerous trend.