A University of Michigan study suggests that teens who vape cannabis are at greater risk for respiratory symptoms indicative of lung injury than those who vape nicotine or smoke cigarettes or cannabis. Vaping in the study refers to the pen-style devices rather than more traditional, tabletop devices.
Carol Boyd, Deborah J. Oakley collegiate professor emerita at the U-M School of Nursing, said the study results were not what she expected, anticipating vaping nicotine would be “most strongly associated with worrisome respiratory symptoms.” Boyd added that vaping nicotine and smoking “are unhealthy and not good for lungs” but “vaping marijuana appears even worse.”
“Our data challenges the assumption that smoking cigarettes or vaping nicotine is the most harmful to the lungs. If we control for vaping cannabis in our analyses, we find there is a weaker relationship between e-cigarette or cigarette use and respiratory symptoms when compared to vaping cannabis.” – Boyd in a press release
The researchers found that teens who reported vaping cannabis were about twice as likely to report “wheezing and whistling” in the chest than those who did not. Current use of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and cannabis were linked with some respiratory symptoms, such as dry cough, but most associations were not significant after controlling for vaping cannabis.
It’s worth noting that Michigan, where the study took place, does not allow teenagers to access the state’s regulated cannabis vaporizer products. Therefore, it is safe to assume that at least some study participants were using unregulated cannabis vape cartridges, which frequently contain vitamin E acetate and have been linked to EVALI, or E-cigarette or Vaping Use-Associated Lung Injury. The researchers also did not explore the co-vaping of cannabis along with cigarette and e-cigarette use and Philip Veliz, U-M research assistant professor of nursing, said “future studies need to assess if it is the combination of vaping both nicotine and cannabis” that is creating the respiratory issues.
“It may be the combination of vaping cannabis along with smoking cigarettes is what leads to the high rates of respiratory symptoms among youthful marijuana vapers,” he said in a statement.
The study included self-reported symptoms from a sample of youth ages 12-17 from the 2016-2018 Wave of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study. Symptoms included wheezing and whistling in the chest; disturbed sleep or limited speech due to wheezing; wheezing during or after exercise; and dry cough at night not associated with chest illness or infection.
The study is scheduled to be published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Cannabis’s status as a federally prohibited Schedule 1 substance, meanwhile, continues to block significant research into the plant’s effects and medicinal potential and maintains a status quo of lawlessness for cannabis consumers around the country.
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