According to the annual Monitoring the Future study from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, the prevalence of marijuana vaping increased by 7.7% in 2019, the second-largest single-year growth ever observed in the study’s 45-year history. According to the study, 21% of 12th-graders reported using marijuana vapes at least once in the past year.
In addition to the increase in marijuana vaping among teenagers, 35% of students reported using a nicotine vape in the last year, a 5.6% increase from the 2018 study. The survey also showed that daily marijuana use increased among students in the 8th and 12th grades. The use of alcohol, previously on the decline, is now stabilizing from year to year for the same demographic.
While the prevalence of marijuana vaping and daily marijuana use increased significantly, marijuana use in any form remained fairly consistent with 36% of 12th-graders reporting using the drug. In 2018, the study found that marijuana use among college students had reached a 35-year high with 43% of students using marijuana at least once in the previous year.
Richard Miech, the principal investigator of the study, said the sharp increase in marijuana vaping is second only to the increase in nicotine vaping recorded in 2018. Miech noted these statistics are not only meant to inform the public but are also intended to be used toward effective policymaking.
“It was the second-largest increase we’ve ever seen for any substance we’ve ever studied in the last 45 years,” Miech said. “We hope to inform policy, particularly policy as it’s happening. And so when we find something both like marijuana vaping and nicotine vaping increasing at such alarming rates … we think it’s really important to inform policy that these trends are taking place among adolescents.”
Miech said he believes there may be a link between the simultaneous increase in marijuana vaping and daily marijuana use, since vape pens have made it easier to quickly and efficiently smoke marijuana in public spaces.
“If you want to use marijuana on a daily basis, I think it’s much easier to do with vaping than smoking marijuana,” Miech said. “If you’re in 10th or 12th grade, for example, and want to smoke a joint in school, that’s pretty difficult … Whereas if you’re vaping it, you could just discreetly take a hit and put it back in your pocket.”
Kinesiology senior L.J. Horowitz, the president of Green Wolverine— a student organization dedicated to spreading information about the cannabis industry— said the data is unsurprising given the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in Michigan. Horowitz said the rising rates of marijuana vaping should be viewed in comparison to the prevalence of alcohol or nicotine usage among teenagers.
“Do I think it’s a positive development? No,” Horowitz said. “But I think if you compare how many students in high school have tried dab pens versus how many have tried alcohol or cigarette smoking even, I think you’d find that number to be much higher. So, I still really think these claims are sensationalized in the media and really, if anything, probably are not as reflective as they should be.”