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Study Shows Connection Between Teen Vaping and Marijuana Use

teen girl vaping  

A new research review shows that teens and young people who use e-cigarettes are over three times more likely to use marijuana, as compared to young people who never try vaping. It’s just one more bit of troubling information to come to light regarding the risks of vaping and especially teen vaping. There are dangerous side effects linked to the use of pure liquid nicotine in vaping devices, as well as the use of a vape pen for marijuana oil, yet teens continue to use these devices at alarmingly high levels.

The Rise of Vaping Popularity

According to the Monitoring the Future Survey: High School and Youth Trends from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there has been a substantial and significant increase in vaping among young people. Often touted as a safer alternative to cigarettes, we’re only just now starting to get a clearer picture of the risks. The survey found within the past year that:

  • 17.6% of 8th graders reported vaping,
  • 32.3% of 10th graders said they’d vaped, and
  • More than 37% of 12th graders reported vaping.

Vaping is the second of the most common drugs used by teens, only behind alcohol.

The increases in vaping use are highlighting the potential for other types of teen drug use to stem from vaping. Research shows the teen brain isn’t fully developed. The use of an addictive substance like nicotine during the brain’s key developmental years can put a young person at risk to become addicted to other substances as well.

So, why the increase in teens using vaping devices? One big problem is the fact that young people and their families may not understand the risks of vaping. Even doctors and researchers don’t completely understand all the risks at this point. It’s also fairly easy to vape because the devices are tiny and portable, and there is less stigma surrounding the use of vaping as compared to other substances or traditional cigarettes.

Risks of Teen Vaping

There are numerous risks of teen vaping. One risk is nicotine addiction. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, and it affects many of the same brain neurotransmitters as other addictive substances, including dopamine. When a teen’s brain is exposed to nicotine, it can cause long-lasting effects on attention and impulse control.

When a teen’s brain is exposed to nicotine through vaping, they are more susceptible to not only nicotine addiction but also to developing an addiction to other substances.

The chemicals in vape also represent another risk of teen vaping. There are many carcinogenic compounds in the vaping liquid used with e-cigarettes. Chemicals and harmful compounds are inhaled deeply into the lungs, raising the risk of lung irritation and the development of lung diseases.

The Vape and Marijuana Connection

We hear a great deal about gateway drugs, and it appears, looking at currently available data and research, that vaping nicotine can be a gateway drug.

Recently, researchers looked at data from 21 studies previously published. The studies included more than 128,000 participants aged 10 to 24.

  • Young people were overall 3.5 times more likely to use marijuana if they used e-cigarettes.
  • Adolescents aged 12 to 17 who used e-cigarettes were 4.3 times more likely to use marijuana.
  • Among young adults 18 to 24, vapers were 2.3 times more likely to use marijuana.

There are some theories about why this could be the case. One reason some researchers believe young vapers could be more likely to use marijuana is that the experimentation linked to e-cigarettes could make them more willing to explore how to vape marijuana as well.

Another theory is that vaping and e-cigarette use could reduce the perceived harm of marijuana, and the ability to use a vape pen for weed and nicotine could also make marijuana more accessible to young people.

Talking to Kids About Drugs

Talking to teens about drugs can be a challenge, but it’s important for parents to stay informed about what the risks are and what teens’ attitudes towards certain substances are. Because vaping is a relatively new trend among teens, parents may not understand the risks, or they may not think it’s something they need to discuss with their teen. However, information coming to light indicates this isn’t the case.

If you would like help for your teen who has a substance use disorder, contact Next Generation Village to learn more about drug treatment centers in Florida.


Raven, Kathleen. “Teen Vaping Linked to More Health Risks.” Yale Medicine, September 7, 2019. Accessed September 11, 2019.

Rapaport, Lisa. “Teen vaping tied to marijuana use.” Reuters, August 13, 2019. Accessed September 11, 2019.

Feldhausen, Teresa Shipley. “Explainer: The Nico-Teen Brain.” Science News for Students, August 19, 2015. Accessed September 11, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Monitoring the Future Survey: High School and Youth Trends.” December 2018. Accessed September 11, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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