A study led by Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Organization in the UAB School of Public Health, Ruoyan Sun, Ph.D., titled Evaluation of self-reported cannabis vaping among U.S. youth and young adults who use e-cigarettes, has been published in JAMA Pediatrics. Utilizing data from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study, a national longitudinal study of tobacco use among U.S. adults and youth, researchers were able to calculate the proportion of current e-cigarette users among U.S. youth and young adults who vape cannabis.

Dr. Ruoyan SunDr. Ruoyan SunVaping has gained considerable public attention due to its rapidly increasing popularity among the youth, but there is little research focused on what is being vaped by young people in the United States. The assumption of vaping substances is often nicotine, whereas Dr. Sun’s study shows that among young people who currently vape, 35% of 12-14 year-olds, 51.3% of 15-17 year-olds, and 54.6% of 18-24 year-olds reported the use of cannabis while vaping.

“This study attempts to distinguish cannabis vaping from nicotine vaping when many people mistakenly interpret vaping as only the use of nicotine,” said Dr. Sun. “We hope that future surveys can ask more detailed questions on e-cigarette use. These questions would be important with the ongoing youth e-cigarette epidemic, for example, whether youth are getting addicted to nicotine, cannabis, or some other substance.”

Sun believes that researchers may have modestly overestimated the prevalence of nicotine vaping, given the proportions of current e-cigarette users reporting cannabis vaping every time they vaped. She feels that future surveys should add more detailed questions on nicotine and cannabis vaping, including the question of what substance is being vaped, as well as the frequency and the intensity of use.

“If we have these data, we might be able to answer some important research questions, such as whether it is easier for smokers to quit using e-cigarettes with high nicotine content, or what are some adverse health effects with respect to the total amount of nicotine vaped, and if there is a dose-response relationship,” says Dr. Sun.

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