Study Finds Teens Vaping Marijuana, Nicotine More Than Drinking or Smoking


by Jeffrey Buckley

Updated: August 7, 2020

  • A recent report shows teens in the US are vaping marijuana and nicotine more than the previous year
  • The study pointed to a rise in vaping marijuana in general, while teens moved away from drinking, smoking, and other illicit drugs
  • Experts say the increase in vaping marijuana and nicotine is due to the popularity of vaping devices, which are portable, discreet and concealable

Thinking About the Future

A new report from the Monitoring the Future survey has found teenagers are vaping marijuana and nicotine more than in previous years. The study is an annual examination of drug use patterns and behaviors among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders in the US.
This year, the survey found that:

  • 20.8% of 12th graders admitted to vaping marijuana in the past 12 months
  • 19.4% of 10th graders admitted to vaping marijuana in the past 12 months
  • 7% of 8th graders admitted to vaping marijuana in the past 12 months

While these stats have remained steady since 2018, the highest increase in teen vaping use was seen in the amount of 12th graders who admitted to vaping marijuana in the past 30 days. From 2018 to 2019, the rate has jumped from:

7% of 12th graders in 2018 to 14.4% in 2019

According to the authors of the survey, this is the single-largest increase in the use of any drug in the 45-year history of the study – the last one being in 2018, which saw a marked increase in teen nicotine vaping.

More Daily Marijuana Use Among Teens in 2019

Daily use of marijuana also rose in the 12 months since the 2018 survey. Researchers found that among two age groups:

Daily marijuana use among 10th graders increased by 1.3 percentage points to 4.8% in 2019
Daily marijuana use among 8th graders increased by 0.7 percentage points to 1.3% in 2018

The study defines “daily marijuana use” as 20 or more instances of consumption in 30 days. Researchers and other experts weighed in on the reasons for such a substantial increase. Many cited the following explanations for the rise in marijuana consumption:

  1. The popularity, ease of accessibility and discreetness of vaping devices
  2. Relaxed attitudes toward recreational marijuana
  3. The increased potency of marijuana products, especially THC extract

The increased concentrations of THC in both dry-herb cannabis and marijuana extracts are what worry experts most. The main concerns have to do with THC negatively affecting the development of adolescent brains, which can have consequences later on in life.

The Other Side of the Coin

As concerning as the rise in teen marijuana and nicotine vaping is, researchers also found reasons to be optimistic about teenage drug and alcohol use. While the rates of illicit drug use did not rise, they also did not decrease.

The study found that:

  • Use of illicit drugs (cocaine, MDMA, ecstasy) stayed mostly the same as the previous year for all age groups
  • Use of prescription opioids fell by 0.7% to 1.7% of 12th graders
  • Alcohol use has stabilized at statistically low levels – 1.7% of 12th graders in 2019 – although they had been declining since the mid-90s
Despite the rise in past-month teenage marijuana vaping, marijuana use among adolescents, overall, has remained even, with not much change seen since 2018. The past-year marijuana consumption rates for all age groups are nearly the same as last year.

Published: December 18, 2019Updated: August 7, 2020

Jeffrey Buckley

I was a smoker for over 25 years. In this time I also earned my medical degree with a specialization in addiction treatment and counseling. That period has led me to vaping, my interest started around 2011. I’m fighting the tide of hysteria and dis-information around vaping that emanates from various fronts legislative, cultural and scientific. Having scientific councils support, I’m happy to contribute my thoughts, articles, and expertise.


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