What the Increased Use of Marijuana & E-Cigarettes in Youth Means

Colorado State, and shortly after, Washington State, made splashes in news headlines when both states legalized the use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21. It has been fascinating watching the ripple effect that marijuana legalization has caused in these two states, and others afterwards like decrease in violent crime, a large drop in marijuana arrests, and even fiscal benefits, however there are darker effects to marijuana legalization as well especially when it comes to youths.

 Research funded by the National Office of Drug Control Policy shows that marijuana-related school expulsions are up 40 percent and a greater number of children are exposed to marijuana. Since marijuana legalization in Washington, the Poison Center has been receiving more phone calls about accidental ingestion of marijuana edibles or pot inhalation.

However, that is not the only drug that has been seeing an increase in accidental ingestion by young children. Surprisingly, e-cigarettes – which were initially touted as being safer than traditional cigarettes – are proving to be a concern. The Poison Center also reports an increase in calls regarding children sucking on e-cigarettes or ingesting the nicotine liquid that is used in e-cigarettes. The bottles, which do not have warning labels or child-proof caps, are attractive to children. 

Research by the Center for Disease Control also shows that e-cigarette use is up among middle and high school students. It is becoming clear that drugs that used to be taboo like marijuana and cigarettes have gotten 21st century makeovers. The legalization of marijuana and ingestion of nicotine in the less-repellent e-cigarette is leading to more exposure and use by very small children through high school-aged children. 

The problem, however is that there are still adverse effects associated with marijuana and/or e-cigarette use. 

1.     Nicotine Use is Dangerous

The Director of the CDC, Tom Frieden, M.D., said, “We want parents to know that nicotine use is dangerous for kids at any age, whether it’s an e-cigarette, hookah, cigarette, or cigar.” While e-cigarettes are less dangerous than smoking tobacco, they are still not safe. E-cigarettes can cause heart and lung damage, contain harmful toxins, and cause addiction.

 2.     Vaporizing Cannabis is Common Among E-Cigarette Users

Youths that engage in e-cigarette use are also likely to engage in vaporizing cannabis by use of an e-cigarette, which can compound the potential health consequences.

 3.     Marijuana is Touted as a Safe Drug, but it Still Has Side Effects

Including increased heart rate, respiratory problems, increased chance of depression or anxiety, impaired driving, birth defects, reduced performance at work or school, and can act as a potential gateway to harder drugs.