Marijuana Vaping has Increased Dramatically among Youth, State Says, Though Overall Use Remained Flat

While overall use of marijuana among Oregon youth has remained flat, the primary way they’re using the substance — vaping — has dramatically increased, an Oregon Health Authority analysis has found.

New data show one in four Oregon 11th-graders reporting vaping a nicotine product, with youth use of e-cigarettes like Juul increasing nearly 80 percent between 2017 and 2019. Marijuana use changed dramatically as well, according to the data, with youth shifting from smoking marijuana to vaping.

Youth vaping of marijuana increased 295 percent — from 11 percent to 44 percent among 11th-graders using marijuana — between 2017 and 2019, even as 11th-grade overall marijuana use stayed constant at 20 percent. The data come from Oregon Healthy Teens (OHT), a survey of middle- and high-school students that OHA administers every two years.

“This is alarming,” said Dean Sidelinger, MD, MSEd, health officer and state epidemiologist, OHA Public Health Division. “It confirms what we’ve long known: Vaping is putting a new generation at risk for addiction. These products can get young people started on using nicotine and marijuana, and it is easy to get hooked.”

OHT and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a survey the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention annually administers in partnership with states, both found that nicotine vaping products are most popular among children and young adults: 23 percent of 11th-grade students and 13 percent of young adults, ages 18 to 24, use nicotine e-cigarettes versus just 3 percent of adults age 25 and older.

In Oregon, youth vaping overlaps with use of conventional tobacco and flavored tobacco products, the OHT analysis showed. More than half of Oregon eighth- and 11th-graders who use tobacco use flavored tobacco. Roughly half of all youth who currently use conventional tobacco products started with vape products. Nearly two in five Oregon 11th-grade vape users also currently smoke conventional cigarettes.

A February 2019 study in the journal JAMA Network Open, one of the first studies to track youth e-cigarette users over time, found that young people who vape e-cigarettes are nearly three times as likely to start smoking cigarettes as peers who don’t vape.

A fact sheet on OHA’s analysis of youth vaping data is available on the agency’s tobacco prevention website.

Oregon health officials are continuing to study the health effects of vaping following the widespread outbreak of acute lung injuries that have been linked to the use of both marijuana and nicotine vape products. More than 1,300 cases have been reported across the country with 26 deaths, two of them here in Oregon.

The concerns ultimately led Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to order a 180-day ban on all flavored vaping products in the state. A Canby law firm successfully petitioned for the ban to be stayed in regard to flavored nicotine products, but the ban on flavored cannabis oils remains in effect.

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