September 17, 2018 / 6:19 PM / a month ago

Almost one in 11 U.S. tweens and teens vape cannabis

(Reuters Health) - Roughly one in 11 American middle and high school students have used cannabis in e-cigarettes, a study suggests.

In 2016, researchers surveyed more than 20,000 youth ages nine to 19, including  about 5,200 children and teens who said they had vaped at least once.

Nearly one in three young e-cigarette users said they had tried cannabis with e-cigarettes at least once, survey results showed.

Overall, almost 9 percent of students had vaped marijuana, including 4.5 percent of students in middle school and 12.4 percent of students in high school.

“Smoke from cannabis contains many of the same toxins, irritants, and carcinogens as tobacco smoke,” said lead study author Katrina Trivers of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

“Although using cannabis through an e-cigarette or in edibles does not have the same risks of smoking it, there are still health risks,” Trivers said by email.

Big tobacco companies, including Altria Group Inc, Lorillard Tobacco Co and Reynolds American Inc, are all developing e-cigarettes. The battery-powered devices feature a glowing tip and a heating element that turns liquid nicotine and other flavorings into a cloud of vapor that users inhale.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed a crackdown on sales of flavored e-cigarettes to combat what regulators described as an epidemic of teen vaping.

The researchers acknowledge in JAMA Pediatrics that the study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how vaping on its own or using cannabis in e-cigarettes might directly cause health problems.

Still, they say, their findings add to earlier evidence suggesting that e-cigarettes may be a gateway to smoking tobacco and experimenting with drugs.

“E-cigarettes can also be used to deliver nicotine and other drugs, including cannabis or marijuana,” Trivers said. “There are a variety of ways that cannabis or marijuana could be used in an e-cigarette, such as putting hash oils, waxes, and other THC liquids directly in the e-liquid section of an e-cigarette.”

Some previous research suggests that cannabis use during adolescence can adversely impact learning and memory and impair academic achievement, the study authors note.

Vaping has also been linked to breathing problems as well as heart and blood vessel damage.

There’s also a risk that vaping cannabis may expose teens to more potent doses of the drug and higher levels of chemicals in marijuana like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) than they might get by smoking a joint, said Wayne Hall of the Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research at the University of Queensland in Australia.

Especially in places where marijuana is legal for recreational or medical use, it may not be hard for teens to get access to cannabis oils or extracts to use with vaping devices, Hall, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

“Cannabis products, whether for medical or recreational use such as cannabis oils and cannabis extracts, are being marketed to adults for use in vaporizers as a safer and/or more efficient way to obtain cannabis,” Hall said.

SOURCE: bit.ly/2OxL4ai JAMA Pediatrics, online September 17, 2018.

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