While electronic cigarettes are often marketed as aids to help people quit smoking, a new study suggests that some people are using the devices to vaporize cannabis instead of nicotine.
The drug cannabis – also referred to as marijuana – can be used in many forms, including oils and dried leaves.
Researchers from Yale University in New Haven, CT, found that almost 1 in 5 high school students surveyed in their study reported using electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) to vaporize cannabis or byproducts of the drug such as hash oil.
“This is a relatively novel way of using marijuana, and kids are using it at a fairly high rate,” reports lead author Meghan E. Morean, now an assistant professor of psychology at Oberlin College, OH.
The study, published in Pediatrics, anonymously surveyed a total of 3,847 students from five high schools in Connecticut.
E-cigarettes are becoming more and more popular among high school students. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that e-cigarette use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014.
At present, around 2 million students are estimated to use e-cigarettes. In the new study, the researchers found that 27.9% of high school students participating in the study reported using the devices.
A less conspicuous way of using cannabis
Usually, e-cigarettes work by vaporizing a liquid nicotine solution that is contained within a cartridge inside the device with a battery-powered atomizer.
Fast facts about e-cigarettes
- The e-cigarette was invented in 2003
- E-cigarettes do not contain the tobacco or tar that traditional cigarettes do
- Only e-cigarettes marketed for therapeutic purposes are currently regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Learn more about e-cigarettes
However, the nicotine solution can be replaced with cannabis products such as hash oil, dried cannabis and wax infused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the active ingredient in cannabis.
Of the sample of students surveyed for the study, 29.2% reported using cannabis and 18.8% reported having used both e-cigarettes and cannabis at some point during their lives.
The researchers found that a significant number of students in these groups had used e-cigarettes to vaporize cannabis: around 18% of lifetime e-cigarette users, 18.4% of lifetime cannabis users and 26.5% of e-cigarette and cannabis dual users.
Further analysis of the survey results revealed that the people most likely to vaporize cannabis using e-cigarettes were male students, younger students, lifetime e-cigarette users and lifetime cannabis users.
Prof. Morean explains the potential appeal of using e-cigarettes to vaporize cannabis products:
“The smell of vaping marijuana isn’t as strong as smoking it, plus the similarity in appearance of hash oil and nicotine solutions make this a really inconspicuous way of using marijuana.”
While dried cannabis leaves were the most common form of cannabis to be vaporized using e-cigarettes, the researchers state that vaporizing liquid forms of cannabis can be more potent that dried cannabis leaves.
Some e-cigarette vendors also offer devices that are designed with the vaporization of cannabis products in mind.
“These findings raise concerns about the lack of e-cigarette regulations and the potential use of e-cigarettes for purposes other than vaping nicotine,” the researchers conclude.
Previously, Medical News Today ran a Spotlight feature article investigating how safe e-cigarettes are. While the devices are growing dramatically in popularity, opinions remain divided as to their long-term impact on health.
Another study published this summer revealed that adolescents may be more likely to use e-cigarettes if their friends and family use or approve of the devices themselves.
Written by James McIntosh
Copyright: Medical News Today
Read more breaking health news on our homepage