There is good news and bad news in the recently-released annual survey, Monitoring the Future, which follows drug use among teens. (Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse)
First the good news; teens are drinking less, smoking less and their use of hard drugs has declined, following a long-term trend. Now, the bad news; vaping has become virtually ubiquitous among teens and is exposing a whole new generation of teens to nicotine.
In addition, the number of teens vaping marijuana has increased. Fourteen percent of 12th graders surveyed said they had vaped marijuana in the last month compared to 7.5% last year. And, a quarter of high school seniors reporting that they had vaped nicotine within the last 30 days.
The vaping trend is worrisome for a host of reasons. No one knows the long term effects of vaping but the more immediate concern is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finding that there have been 2,409 cases of hospitalization associated with vaping lung illness nationwide and 52 deaths. The “absolute increases from 2018 to 2019 among 12th graders for past 30-day use are the second largest, single-year increases ever tracked by Monitoring the Future for any substance in its 45-year history (increased nicotine vaping from 2017 to 2018 ranks first).
A new report issued by The American Journal of Preventative Medicine concluded that the “use of e-cigarettes is an independent risk factor for respiratory disease in addition to combustible tobacco smoking.” And the use of e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes, a common practice, is even riskier than using either product alone.
The good news for public health officials is that teens seem to have heard the message that smoking, drinking and heavy drug use are not optimal life choices. But there is a major disconnect here. Clearly, teens are not getting the message that it’s the drug itself that is not optimal, no matter the manner in which it is ingested.
If we can’t find a way to stop this vaping steamroller, we will be dealing with the health and other consequences for a long time to come.
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