US Teens Prefer Weed Vapes to Cigarettes or Alcohol, New Study Says
About one-fifth of all US teens said they used weed vapes in the past year, and one out of every seven high school seniors vaped weed within the past month.
Published on December 18, 2019

A national survey found that American teens are vaping more weed and nicotine than ever, while smoking fewer cigarettes, drinking less alcohol, and using fewer hard drugs.

These findings are sourced from the Monitoring the Future survey, an annual study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In this survey, 8th, 10th, and 12th graders are asked to anonymously self-report their usage of alcohol, nicotine, or other drugs. This year, around 42,000 students responded to the survey, but only two-thirds of these respondents were asked about vaping cannabis.

Out of all students who were asked about vaping, one-fourth said that they had vaped weed at least once within the past year. 7 percent of 8th graders, 19.4 percent of 10th graders, and 20.8 percent of 12th graders reported past-year pot vaping. Fourteen percent of 12th graders also said they had vaped weed within the past month, almost double the 7.5 percent of seniors who vaped pot in 2018. Additionally, 3.5 percent of 12th graders and 3 percent of 10th graders said that they used weed vapes every day.

In general, teens' reported use of weed vapes has doubled in the past two years. Rates of nicotine vaping have also risen as well, with a quarter of all 10th and 12th graders reporting past-month e-cigarette use. “The speed at which kids are taking up this behavior is very worrisome,” said NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow, according to the Associated Press. The increase in vape use is alarming in light of the recent outbreak of vaping-related lung illness, many cases of which have been linked to illegal weed vapes.

It is important to note that the survey was conducted before these lung-related illnesses started appearing this fall. Dr. Volkow theorized that this illness “may scare some teenagers away” from vaping weed, potentially causing the rate of teen use to drop next year. And, while teens are vaping more weed than ever, the overall rates of teen cannabis use in other forms, like edibles and smokable flower, has remained steady. 

Public health officials are concerned about the increase in teen vaping, but there is plenty of good news in the survey: Teen use of dangerous drugs like alcohol, tobacco, and opioids is on the decline. About 52 percent of all 12th graders and 38 percent of 10th graders reported drinking alcohol in the past year. These rates have fallen significantly since 2000, when 73 percent of seniors and 65 percent of sophomores reported past-year drinking.

Cigarette smoking has also fallen by the wayside. Past-month smoking dropped to 5.7 percent among 12th graders, down from 13.6 percent in 2014. The rates of illegal drug use, including meth, cocaine, heroin, and MDMA, have all either decreased or held steady from previous years. One notable exception is LSD, which has been increasing in popularity among 10th and 12th graders around the country.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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