Vaping among teens doubles in a year says MTF report

The 45th Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey 2019 has revealed that teenagers are preferring e cigarettes more and more and there is an increased propensity of using nicotine and marijuana in their e cigarettes. The latest report titled, “Trends in Reported Marijuana Vaping among U.S. Adolescents, 2017-2019”, was released in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Image Credit: Amani A / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Amani A / Shutterstock

The latest MTF survey uses data from the eighth, tenth and twelfth graders in a sample population from the schools across United States. It included a total of 42,531 students from 396 public and private schools. The report was revealed today by the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health. The team behind the report was led by University of Michigan scientists. The sample population of students answered a survey questionnaire that was sent to them each year. Their drug use and their attitudes towards drug use were assessed in the survey.

The report revealed that in the last year there has been a doubling of the number of e cigarette users among these teenagers compared to data from a couple of years back. Among 12th graders the prevalence of vaping was 20.8 percent, among 10th graders the prevalence of vaping was 19.4 percent and among the eight graders the percentage was 7 percent. In a single year the numbers of e cigarettes users doubled among 12th graders and stood at 14.5 percent last month compared to 7.5 percent in 2018 same time. The survey officials say that this is the largest rise in any substance use they have ever recorded. They also found that marijuana vaping was 3.5 percent, 3 percent and 0.8 percent among 12th graders, 10th graders and eighth graders respectively. In September this year the MTF had released another survey result that showed that alarming rise in nicotine vaping among this sample of population.

The authors of the report wrote that marijuana is one of the commonest illicit drugs used by teenagers and there has been a steady rise in this substance abuse among this age group. Since 2018 there has been a rise in marijuana use and it stands at 1.3 percent and 4.8 percent respectively among eighth and tenth graders. Overall in the past year the rates of marijuana use remains at 35.7 percent, 28.8 percent and 11.8 percent among twelfth, tenth and eighth graders respectively. There has been a steady use of other illicit substances among this age group over the past year, the team wrote. The numbers stood at 3.6 percent using LSD, 3.3 percent using synthetic cannabinoids, 2.2 percent using both cocaine and ecstasy or MDMA and 0.4 percent using heroin.

Alcohol, tobacco from traditional cigarettes, prescription medicines are also used among teenagers, but the number of users are reducing says the report. Pain reliever use such as Oxycontin has fallen out of favour of twelfth graders with 1.7 percent users in 2019 (compared to 4 percent in 2002). Similar rates of Vicodin use among tenth and twelfth graders remains at 1.1 percent each (was at 9.6 percent among twelfth graders in 2002). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) medication Adderall was at 4.6 percent and 6.8 percent among tenth and twelfth graders in 2014 respectively. The numbers have come down to 3.1 percent and 3.9 percent among tenth and twelfth graders respectively. The number of Adderall abusers has however risen among eighth graders from 1.3 percent in 2014 to 2.5 percent in 2019.

Smoking regular cigarettes is also on a declining trend among teenagers (13.6 percent among twelfth graders in 2014 to 5.7 percent last month this year). While only 2.4 percent of the twelfth graders said that they smoked cigarettes daily in 2019, the number of vapers is 11.7 percent wrote the researchers. This year 2019 is the first year when the vaping frequency of the teenagers is being measured. Nicotine vaping has been up with almost a quarter of twelfth graders confessing to vaping daily over the past month. Nicotine vaping has been taken up by one in ten and one in five eighth and tenth graders too over the past month. The team explained that not all of the teenagers who are using nicotine or marijuana are aware of the products they are using. From the survey 8.1 percent of the twelfth graders confessed to being “hooked” or addicted to vaping. This number was 3.6 percent during the last survey last year.

There has been a significant and heartening drop in alcohol use among teenagers wrote the researchers. Alcohol use at present is at 37.7 percent and 52.1 percent among tenth and twelfth graders respectively. Binge alcohol consumption (five or more drinks at a time in a period of two weeks) also fell from 19.4 percent to 14.4 percent between 2014 and 2019 among twelfth graders. These numbers fell from 12.6 percent to 8.5 percent among tenth graders over the past five years.

NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow said in a statement, “We are heartened to see the continuing decline in the use of many drugs, particularly non-medical use of prescription opioids; however, teens are clearly attracted to vaping products, which are often concentrated amounts of drugs disguised as electronic gadgets. Their growing popularity threatens to undo years of progress protecting the health of adolescents in the U.S.”

Journal reference:

Miech RA, Patrick ME, O’Malley PM, Johnston LD, Bachman JG. Trends in Reported Marijuana Vaping Among US Adolescents, 2017-2019. JAMA. Published online December 17, 2019. doi: https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2019.20185

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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