MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Katrina Trivers, PhD, MSP
Lead author and lead epidemiologist
Office on Smoking and Health
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: Although we’ve seen considerable declines in the use of regular cigarettes among U.S. youth over the past several decades, the tobacco product landscape is evolving, and the use of other tobacco products have become increasingly popular. For example, as of 2014, e-cigarettes have become the most commonly used tobacco product among US youth. During 2011-2015, e-cigarette use increased 900% among U.S. high school students before declining in 2016. No change was observed in 2017, with about 2 million youth, including 12% of high school students and 3% of middle school students, reporting they had used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.
This is a public health concern because the use of any form of tobacco product is unsafe among youth, irrespective of whether it’s smoked, smokeless, or electronic. The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that the aerosol emitted from e-cigarettes is not harmless. It can contain harmful ingredients, including nicotine, carbonyl compounds, and volatile organic compounds known to have adverse health effects. The nicotine in these products is of particular concern given that nicotine exposure during adolescence can cause addiction and can harm the developing adolescent brain.
In recent years, many youth have also been using other psychoactive substances in e-cigarettes, including cannabinoids and other illicit drugs. This could have been fueled, in part, by shifts in the social acceptability and access to cannabis as several states have or are considering legalized cannabis sales for adults. A previous CDC study found that in 2015, almost 1 in 3 students reported using e-cigarettes with non-nicotine substances. However, it wasn’t possible to identify what exactly those substances were based on the question. Given the high concurrent use of tobacco and other substances, including cannabis, a more detailed question was added to a future survey to assess the use of cannabis in e-cigarettes among U.S. youth. This study presents the findings from that question.