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Study finds dramatic increases in vaping marijuana, nicotine among young adults

By Sarah Rahal, The Detroit News on

Published in News & Features

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - The number of young adults in the U.S. who are vaping marijuana and nicotine has more than doubled in two years, according to a national study by researchers at the University of Michigan.

Vaping has increased dramatically among 19- to 22-year-olds in and out of college as the perception of harmful heath risks decline, researchers say.

Between 2017 and 2019, the percentage of young adults who vaped marijuana at least once in 30 days increased from 5% to 14% among full-time college students and from 8% to 17% among those not in college, according to the study.

In those same years, those who vaped nicotine increased from 6% to 22% among college students and from 8% to 18% among young adults not in college.

The findings come from the annual national Monitoring the Future Panel study, which has been tracking substance use among American college students and youth not in college since 1980 with a team of research professors at the University of Michigan. It's funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The increased vaping of adults is the reverse of a trend researchers have seen in young teens.


In a national survey, just under 20% of high school students and 5% of middle school students said they were recent users of electronic cigarettes and other vaping products. That marks a big decline from a similar survey last year that found about 28% of high school students and 11% of middle school students recently vaped.

The survey suggests that the number of school kids who vape fell by 1.8 million in a year, from 5.4 million to 3.6 million, officials said.

The doubling to tripling of vaping marijuana and nicotine are among the largest increases researchers have seen since the study began over 40 years ago, said John Schulenberg, principal investigator of the Monitoring the Future Panel Study.

"This is a worrisome trend given the health risks associated with vaping, including an increased risk of COVID-19 and the addictive properties of nicotine," Schulenberg said. "For decades, we saw consistent drops in nicotine use in the form of cigarette smoking among young adults, especially college students. And now, with this rapid increase in vaping across a few short years, over 1 in 5 19- to 22-year-olds currently vapes nicotine."


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