In just one year’s time — between 2018 and 2019 — the percentage of high school seniors who reported vaping pot within the past month rose from 7.5% to 14%. This is particularly worrisome because vaping has been linked to more than 2,000 recent cases of severe lung illnesses called EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping associated lung injury). Most of these cases, but not all, have been linked to illicit THC vapes and weed pens. And most of these cases are in teens and young adults.
The doubling of marijuana vaping rates among youth was discovered in the most recent Monitoring the Future survey, which has measured drug and alcohol use and related attitudes among adolescent students nationwide annually since 1975. Survey participants report their drug use behaviors across three time periods: lifetime, past year, and past month. Overall, 42,531 students from 396 public and private schools participated in this year’s Monitoring the Future survey. The survey is funded by NIDA, a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and conducted by the University of Michigan.
The increase of vaping pot in this year’s report is the second-largest single-year jump for any substance since the survey began in 1975. Here are some of the facts that the survey found:
- 7% of eighth graders reported vaping marijuana in 2019, up from 4.4 percent in 2018
- 4% of high school sophomores reported vaping marijuana in 2019, up from 12.4 percent in 2018
- 8% of high school seniors said they vaped pot in 2019, up from 13.1 percent in 2018
- 5% of seniors vape marijuana every day
When researchers asked 12th graders why they vaped any substance, most said they wanted to experiment and try the flavors. But a growing number of teens reported vaping “to relax or relieve tension.”
Experts worry that e-cigarettes could put kids’ developing brains at risk and get them hooked on drugs early in life — but the long-term effects are unclear. The health implications of vaping marijuana so frequently may not be known fully for years. Experts are very concerned that the chronic delivery of very high temperature vapor into our lungs could be quite harmful.
So what’s a parent to do? Experts recommend these things:
First, parents should educate themselves on vaping. Understand what it is and how it affects the body. Learn more about the lung illnesses.
Second, parents should be familiar with signs their kids might be vaping: if they notice a faint, sweet scent, for example. Young e-cig users may also show a change in mood, take frequent breaks to take puffs and share vape-related posts on social media.
Third, parents should role model good behavior by not vaping or smoking.
Fourth, parents should have an open conversation about vaping. Parents should warn their teens about vaping and provide them the most recent information on the lung illnesses. However, it’s important in these types of conversations to listen to your teen, not lecture. Ask for your teen’s opinion and find out what they have seen their peers do or say about the subject.
Finally, parents should always set clear expectations with their teens about drug use. Research consistently shows that parents are a powerful influence on their children’s likelihood to experiment with drugs and alcohol. For example, in April 2014, a survey from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) showed that teens whose parents tell them that underage drinking is completely unacceptable are more than 80% less likely to drink than teens whose parents give them other messages about underage drinking. Teens need to hear a consistent message from you that you expect them to avoid substance abuse so that they are prepared to say no when tempted.