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By Amy Norton HealthDay Reporter FRIDAY, May 20, 2022 (HealthDay News) — A growing number of U.S. teenagers are vaping marijuana — a habit that in some ways may be more risky than old-fashioned pot smoking, a new study finds.
Researchers found that between 2017 and 2019, the percentage of teens who reported any marijuana use in the past month ticked upward slightly — from 13.9% to 15.4%.
What really changed, the study found, was how kids were using the drug. There was a sharp increase in vaping, while traditional marijuana smoking declined.
The percentage of kids who said they vaped marijuana “frequently” — at least once a week — more than doubled, from 2.1% to 5.4%. Occasional use (one to six times a month) rose to a similar degree.
At the same time, the proportion of kids who smoke marijuana declined. In essence, vaping seemed to be replacing smoking, according to lead researcher Katherine Keyes, a professor at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City. She said she could only speculate about the reasons. But the rising popularity of vaping nicotine, along with legalization and changing social norms around marijuana, are likely factors, Keyes said.
Those points were echoed by Linda Richter, vice president of prevention research and analysis for the nonprofit Partnership to End Addiction.
She said past research offers some “compelling explanations” for the trends seen in this study.
“First, the wave of nicotine vaping that spread throughout middle and high schools over the past several years increased the likelihood that kids who vape nicotine will transition to vaping marijuana,” said Richter, who was not involved in the study.
Vaping, she added, has become “normalized,” while at the same time “pro-marijuana messages” have grown.
“Vaped products are also typically seen as safer and healthier than smoked products, because when e-cigarettes were originally introduced to the market, they were advertised as safer alternatives to cigarette smoking,” Richter said.
But vaping is far from benign. And when it comes to marijuana, Keyes said, vaping can actually deliver a higher dose of THC than smoking does. THC is the active ingredient behind marijuana’s “high.” That higher THC dose, Richter said, can “hook young people to the substance and keep them coming back for more.”
And while vaping does not involve smoke, the liquids used in vaporizers do contain potentially toxic chemicals, Richter p