Teens using e-cig devices not just for nicotine

Science Spotlight

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A recent analysis of the 2015 Monitoring the Future (MTF) findings on e-cigarette use highlights uncertainty about what teens are actually inhaling when using "e-cig" devices, and at least six percent report they are using the vaporizers to inhale marijuana. The analysis was done by the University of Michigan researchers who conduct the annual MTF survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health.

Of the students in 8th, 10th and 12th grade who said they had ever used a vaporizer device:

  • More than 65 percent said they are vaping "just flavoring"
  • About 20 percent said they are vaping nicotine
  • About 6 percent said they are vaping marijuana
  • About 6 percent do not know what substance they last vaped

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently expanded its tobacco regulatory authority to include e-cigarettes; however the study authors concluded that:

  • Researchers and regulators should not assume all, or even most, vaporizer users inhale nicotine;
  • The public health field should question the use of the term Electronic Nicotine Delivery System to denote vaporizers and e-cigarettes, as many adolescents might not be using these devices to vape nicotine;
  • Vaporizer users can be candidates for primary prevention programs to combat nicotine and marijuana use in teens; and
  • There is a need for vaporizer-specific research to assess and regulate the public health threat of vaporizers.

While many teens do not believe they were using these vaporizers for nicotine, it is unclear if some products labeled nicotine-free actually contained nicotine. New FDA regulations will be requiring accurate labeling on e-cig products.

For a copy of the abstract, "What Are Kids Vaping?" published in Tobacco Control.

Get more information about the 2015 Monitoring the Future survey results.

For more information, contact the NIDA press office at media@nida.nih.gov or 301-443-6245. Follow NIDA on Twitter and Facebook.

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