Teen E-Cigarette and Future Marijuana Use

Teen E-Cigarette and Future Marijuana Use

They look like pens. They look like USB drives. Some even look like small, slick classroom remote devices. But they’re not used to record or transmit information. These devices are used for vaping.

Over the past five years, vaping—using e-cigarettes—has become increasingly prevalent among both teens and adults, and teachers have no doubt heard students discuss the topic, either in their classrooms or in the hallways at school. But many teachers may be unaware of the statistics about teen vaping and vaping’s link to future marijuana use.

In their paper, “Electronic Cigarettes and Future Marijuana Use: A Longitudinal Study,” researchers Hongying Dai et al. investigate the relationship between e-cigarette use and future marijuana use among adolescents. For this study, Dai et al. analyzed data collected from 10,364 youth between the ages of 12-17. The first round of data was collected between September 2013 and December 2014. The second round—the follow-up data—was collected between October 2014 and October 2015 (2). These students all completed the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) survey, which asked participants to report their own use of traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs, and other heavy drugs such as cocaine and heroin, as well as their attitudes toward risk (3). While nearly 12,000 students completed the survey, Dai et al. analyzed the data of only students who reported never having used marijuana in the first round of data collection. This way the authors could better understand the link between e-cigarette use and future marijuana use (4). Furthermore, in order to achieve more accurate results, the authors controlled for students’ age, gender, race/ethnicity, grade performance, parental education levels, and region of residence (in the United States) (3).

The Findings

  • Substance Use Reported in Round 1
    • 31% of students reported having drank alcohol
    • 7.3% reported nonmedical use of prescription drugs
    • 6.0% reported having smoked traditional cigarettes
    • 5.1% reported having used e-cigarettes (vaping)
    • 0.2 % reported having used other drugs

Students who had ever used e-cigarettes were more likely to be “older, male, white, and have poorer grade performance” than non-users (4).

  • E-cigarette users were more likely to report also having used traditional cigarettes, alcohol, and prescription drugs (for nonmedical use) (4).
  • 7.7% of students who had never used e-cigarettes per Round 1 had used marijuana within the subsequent 12-month period (4).

26.6% of students who had used e-cigarettes per Round 1 reported using marijuana within the subsequent 12-month period (4).

  • Students between the ages of 12-14 who had used e-cigarettes were more likely to use marijuana within the next 12 months than users who were between the ages of 15-17 (8). Younger adolescents were also more likely than older adolescents to become heavy marijuana users (4).
  • Greater e-cigarette use was linked to heavy future marijuana use: “We found that the youth who reported a larger number of e-cigarettes and/or cartridges used in a lifetime at baseline were more likely to be subsequent marijuana heavy users” (8).

Dai et al. remark that e-cigarette use may be linked to future marijuana use for several reasons. Vaping may be an indication of more risky behavior in general. Exposure to nicotine at an early age may lead to increased physical dependency. Vaping tools can also be used for marijuana use, which can facilitate the shift from e-cigarettes to cannabis. The authors argue that given the research about the link between vaping and future marijuana use—especially future heavy marijuana use—it is important for government policy and education to help reduce e-cigarette use among adolescents.


Paper Title:  Electronic Cigarettes and Future Marijuana Use: A Longitudinal Study

AuthorsHongying Dai (a,b), Delwyn Catley (a,b), Kimber P. Richter (cKathy Goggin (a,b), Edward F. Ellerbeck (c)

(a) The Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles and Nutrition, Children’s Mercy Kansas City, Kansas City, Missouri; (b) University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City, Missouri; and (cUniversity of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas

Full Paper: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2018/04/19/peds.2017-3787

Published: Pediatrics, Volume 141, 2018, Pages 1-12


Photograph: Thanks to Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash

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