NIH study finds teen vaping has leveled off, still remains high

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A study released Tuesday from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has found vaping nicotine and marijuana in American teens did not increase between 2019 and early 2020, but the levels of that behavior remain high.

The findings are part of the NIH’s annual Monitoring the Future survey, conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, Ann Arbor, and is funded by the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Started in 1975, the survey looks at behaviors of students in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades who self-report their substance use behaviors in the past 24 hours, the past 12 months, and over the course of their lifetime. The survey also looks at a students’ perception of harm, disapproval of use, and perceived availability of drugs. The MTF survey began including questions on nicotine and marijuana vaping four years ago.

From 2017 to 2019, the percentage of teenagers who said they vaped nicotine in the past year rose from 7.5 percent to 16.5 percent for 8th graders, from 15.8 percent to 30.7 percent for 10th graders, and from 18.8 percent to 35.3 percent for 12th graders.

In 2020, those rates held fairly steady. However, daily, or near daily, vaping declined amongst 10th and 12th graders – from 6.8 percent to 3.6 percent in 10th graders and from 11.6 percent to 5.3 percent in 12th graders.

“The rapid rise of teen nicotine vaping in recent years has been unprecedented and deeply concerning since we know that nicotine is highly addictive and can be delivered at high doses by vaping devices, which may also contain other toxic chemicals that may be harmful when inhaled,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “It is encouraging to see a leveling off of this trend though the rates remain very high.”

The rate of vaping marijuana also stayed about the same, with 8.1 percent of 8th graders, 19.1 percent of 10h graders, and 22.1 percent of 12th graders reporting that they had vaped marijuana in the past year. However, daily marijuana vaping fell significantly, with only 1.1 percent of 10th graders and 1.5 percent of 12th graders reporting that behavior in 2020.

The study found that the rate of marijuana use by teens, and alcohol use by teens, did not significantly change in any of the three grade levels. However, the study did find that the past year non-medical use of amphetamines amongst 8th graders increased from 3.5 percent in 2017 to 5.3 percent in 2020, even as non-medical use of amphetamines decreased in 10th and 12th graders.

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