Legal or illegal, cannabis consumption has been commonplace among young Americans for decades.
In 2018, the trend continues — and the advent of new technology, such as electronic cigarettes, has given younger people more ways to consume marijuana-related products.
A team from the Office on Smoking and Health from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shed more light on the trend in research published last month in JAMA Pediatrics.
The researchers reported that nearly 1 in 11 middle and high school students in the United States said they’d consumed cannabis using e-cigarettes as the delivery device.
According to prior research, among those students who already used e-cigarettes for nicotine use, about a third reported using e-cigarettes for non-nicotine substances.
Katrina Trivers, PhD, a lead epidemiologist in the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health and the study’s lead author, told Healthline in an email that it’s a trend worth keeping an eye on.
“As marijuana use continues to be legalized in various states across the country, and as the tobacco product landscape continues to change, it will be important to continue to monitor the extent to which tobacco product and marijuana use patterns change,” explained Trivers.
E-cigarettes — devices that produce an aerosol “vapor” by heating a liquid and often containing flavors, nicotine, and cannabis extracts — were virtually unheard of a decade ago.
Today, they’re a multibillion-dollar business.
Often used by smokers trying to kick the habit, they’ve supplanted conventional cigarettes as the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. youths.
Cannabis — which was illegal apart from medical use until Colorado passed Amendment 64 in 2012 — is now legal for recreational or medical use in a majority of states.
Given the versatility of the active cannabinoid ingredients found in cannabis, it isn’t surprising that e-cigarettes often incorporate cannabis.
Trivers notes that while vaping is generally less harmful to one’s health than smoking, it’s still not exactly safe.
“E-cigarette aerosol generally contains fewer toxic chemicals than the deadly mix of 7,000 chemicals in smoke from regular cigarettes,” she wrote. “However, e-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. It can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances, including nicotine, heavy metals like lead, volatile organic compounds, and cancer-causing agents.”
The cannabis frontier
As cannabis moves into the mainstream, those wishing to consume it have a number of choices.
Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told Healthline that there’s a wide variety of options in legal states.
“If you look through the currently regulated market in a number of states, you’ll see that what the regulation has brought about is a more diverse array of options for individuals to consume their cannabis,” he said.
“That includes a whole selection of different types of edibles. It involves topical lotions, tinctures that are taken orally, vaporizer pens, patches, all sorts of things that are not related to the stereotypical smoking of a joint,” he noted. “They’re very popular. In places like Colorado, sales of those products have begun to make up a plurality to majority of their sales.”