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Three-quarters of U.S. teens who vape use nicotine, marijuana or both

Research notes that the appeal for e-cigarettes for some is more than just the flavored products.

A study published Monday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reveals that three-quarters of teens who vape use the e-cigarette devices to smoke not just nicotine products but marijuana as well.

“We found that youth were more likely to report vaping nicotine and marijuana than ‘just flavoring’ only, and that cigarette smoking intensity was associated with an increasing proportion of students reporting vaping nicotine only,” co-investigator Hongying Dai, an associate professor in the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said in a statement.

Dai is referring to the findings of a pair of studies published in early November, both by the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found that more than 25 percent of all U.S. high school students have at least tried vaping, and that they find the sweet-tasting flavors available — including mango, mint and menthol flavors — particularly appealing. In November, leading e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs announced that it would suspend sales of its mint-flavored products two days after these studies were released.

The new study examined patterns of youth vaping for products containing nicotine, marijuana and just flavoring in the past 30 days by analyzing data from the 2017 Monitoring the Future cross-sectional study, a project assessing trends in youth lifestyles being led by researchers at the University of Michigan.

Among the nearly 15,000 teens who participated, 12 percent reported vaping within the prior 30 days — with 7.4 percent and 3.6 percent using nicotine and marijuana, respectively.

Of the teens that vape or had vaped, less than 25 percent reported vaping just flavored products only, with the remainder using e-cigarettes for nicotine, marijuana or both.

The authors also found that “current cigarette smoking intensity” among teens was associated with an increased risk for vaping nicotine, marijuana, flavored products or all three. In all, 10th- and 12th-graders were more likely to try vaping than eighth-graders, and e-cigarette use was more common among male teenagers than females.

Vaping was also more common among white teenagers than black or Hispanic young people, the authors found.

Although Dai described his team’s findings as more “nuanced” than earlier research, he and his colleagues agree that specifically identifying substances vaped by youth is critical to formulating and implementing interventions to curb the use of these products.

“The truth is that no form of tobacco is safe,” study co-author Mohammad Siahpush added in a statement. “Continuous surveillance of youth behaviors and strategies and interventions to reduce youth e-cigarette use are needed.”

Brian P. Dunleavy/UPI