Teens are using e-cigarettes to vaporize cannabis

December 1, 2015

An anonymous survey of about 3800 Connecticut high school students indicated that concern about electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) should not be limited to their increased popularity.

An anonymous survey of about 3800 Connecticut high school students indicated that concern about electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) should not be limited to their increased popularity. Many e-cigarette users also are using these devices to vaporize cannabis, modifying them by replacing nicotine-containing solutions with either highly concentrated liquid hash oil, wax blocks containing highly concentrated tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis), or by vaporizing dried cannabis buds or leaves. This group of students was much more likely to use e-cigarettes than blunts, bowls, pipes, or bongs as the delivery mechanism for cannabis.  

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Lifetime users of both e-cigarettes and cannabis had the highest rate of vaporizing cannabis using e-cigarettes (26.5%), followed by lifetime cannabis users (18.4%) and lifetime e-cigarette users (18.0%). Using portable electronic vaporizers to vaporize dried cannabis leaves was most popular, practiced by 6.7% of all survey respondents, while 4.5% of respondents reported using e-cigarettes to vaporize hash oil, and 3.0% to vaporize wax-infused THC.

Male students and younger students were at higher risk than their peers of vaporizing cannabis using e-cigarettes. Rates of vaporizing cannabis varied by school but were unaffected by socioeconomic status, the survey showed (Morean ME, et al. Pediatrics. 2015;136[4]:611-616).  

Commentary: Ask your adolescent patients if they are vaping, and then ask them what they are vaping. After that, read the recent series of American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statements on e-cigarette use. The AAP offers sound advice to physicians, families, the Food and Drug Administration, and legislators on this newest risk to children (Pediatrics. 2015[5]:998-1007, 1008-1017, 1018-1026).

Ms Freedman is a freelance medical editor and writer in New Jersey. Dr Burke, section editor for Journal Club, is chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Saint Agnes Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland. The editors have nothing to disclose in regard to affiliations with or financial interests in any organizations that may have an interest in any part of this article.