Study: Teen vaping leads to subsequent marijuana use

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Young people who vape are more likely to consume cannabis, as well as engage in other addictive behaviors, according to a new study.

Replacing cigarettes with vaping nicotine was supposed to disrupt the addictive and destructive patterns caused by mass tobacco consumption. But early research into the Juuling and e-cigarette phenomenon indicates that young people who vape are more likely to consume cannabis, as well as engage in other addictive behaviors. According to a study published Monday in the JAMA Pediatrics, ingesting nicotine at an early age interrupts brain development in adolescents and should be discouraged.

“We can’t think of e-cigarettes as a less-harmful alternative to cigarettes with adolescents,” Dr. Nicholas Chadi, lead author of the study, told CNN. He added that, “just like cigarettes, e-cigarettes increase your risk of using marijuana, and marijuana, we know, has several implications and negative health consequences in adolescents.”

Published in the JAMA Pediatrics journal, Chadi and his team analyzed over 20 previous studies that examined the relationship between teenage vaping and cannabis use. They found consuming nicotine at an early age led someone to be 3.5 times more likely to later smoke marijuana. That relationship was stronger amongst those aged 17 years and younger, compared to those between 18 to 24. Chadi says this is because “a younger brain is more vulnerable to the effects of substances in general.”

He added that, “you would expect that there would be a higher risk of them using marijuana, versus an older adolescent or young adult who might have a more developed brain and might not be as sensitive to the negative effects of nicotine.”

Chadi emphasized this meta-analysis focused on correlation, not causation. This research does not prove early-age vaping leads to teenage marijuana use. But where there’s smoke, there’s fire. “A reasonable hypothesis is that e-cigarette use might cause at least a part of that increased risk of using marijuana,” Chadi said.

In addition, this is not the first research to pinpoint such a correlation. A 2018 Pediatrics study found that teenagers vaping and smoking hookah were up to four times more likely to consume marijuana.

“The association between tobacco use and subsequent marijuana use across adolescence extends to multiple tobacco products,” the researchers of the study concluded.

Though previous research indicates that marijuana legalization discourages teenage use, adolescent cannabis consumption can lead to later problems, including adult memory loss and depression.

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