Guest Blog: Vaping and Marijuana

This week’s guest blogger, Dr. Heather Athanasiou of Community in Crisis shares the latest information about vaping and marijuana, a troubling trend among today’s youth.

Sadly, more and more young adults are vaping not only nicotine, but marijuana as well.  The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ) recently launched a media campaign addressing the dangers and risks associated with young people using marijuana. 

It is vital that children and teens are aware of the impact marijuana can have on the adolescent brain and body. To spread the word, PDFNJ has created Awareness Toolkit that provides easily downloadable images for use on social media, newsletters, email blasts, posters and more.

 We hope that you will be interested in joining us in sharing this campaign with community.

Continued wishes to stay safe and well.



By Dr. Heather Athanasiou
Community in Crisis
Vaping Program Lead

In recent years, a growing number of teens and young adults have been vaping (using e-cigarettes). Originally thought to just produce flavored water vapor, we now know most vapes contain loads of nicotine, and the aerosol inhaled (think hair spray) also contains many toxic chemicals. Now teens are vaping marijuana. What happens when these two trends collide? Nothing good.

A recent study revealed that from 2017 to 2019, the percentage of teens who vaped during the past year DOUBLED. The good news is vaping seems to be leveling off in 2020. Score one for public health campaigns. We got the word out about cigarettes, and we are doing the same with vaping. We need to keep that momentum going and talk about marijuana as it rolls out across New Jersey.

Unfortunately, in 2020 we still have about a third of 10th and 12th graders (31% and 35% respectively) saying they vaped in the past year. About 20% (19%, 22%) reported vaping marijuana specifically in the past year. Why worry?

Body: Our lungs are designed to exchange gases, period. Super heating toxins and heavy metals and inhaling them into the most sensitive parts of our lungs can have disastrous consequences. According to the CDC, Vaping marijuana has been shown to result in some of the most serious outcomes seen with vaping (EVALI -- e-cigarettes and vaping associated lung injury), especially for marijuana from unknown sources. There is now evidence that vaping can increase the susceptibility to COVID and its complications.

Mind: In 2020, only 1/3 of seniors thought daily use of marijuana was harmful. They also said it was easier to obtain than ever, easier than cigarettes. We know that 1 out of 6 youth using marijuana will develop an addiction of some sort later in life. With teen brains hardwired to learn more rapidly than adults, they can become addicted rapidly.

Marijuana is not as harmless as many think, and legalization changes the game significantly. It increases the likelihood of trying marijuana at a younger age. It increases accessibility. It makes people feel safer about marijuana and its source. Colorado lessons: even marijuana from legal dispensaries may contain toxins, pesticides and fungi, and labels often misstate the THC concentration (the psychoactive part of marijuana). Concentrates used in dab pens or vapes can be over 90% THC. One hit off of a dab pen can contain the same THC levels as an entire joint.

Marijuana and nicotine will never be legal for teens. Remember those brains are still cooking until age 20-25. Marijuana can change that development. Repeat: Marijuana can change brain DEVELOPMENT; that is forever. Because of the added risk to the lungs, marijuana, nicotine, CBD, essential oils, and vitamins should NEVER be vaped.

Discuss this with kids in your circle of influence. They need good information to make good decisions about their health and future. It has worked with cigarettes, it is working with vaping, and it can work with marijuana. The difference with marijuana is that we can start talking now, before it is everywhere. We have the other team’s playbook.


Notice: This article reflects the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ). This information should not be construed as legal advice from the author or PDFNJ. Please consult your own attorney before making any legal decisions

Blog Updates

Enter your email address and we'll send you an email each time we post something new.