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Marijuana Vaping in Adolescents: Current Trends and Concerns

Key Points:

  • More adolescents are using vape devices to consume marijuana.

  • Marijuana use in young people is harmful to the still-developing brain and lungs and may lead to cannabis use disorder.

  • Vape detectors in schools, like the one recently upgraded by Zeptive for detecting marijuana, can help schools address student vaping.

vape smoke exhaling

There’s a new troubling trend facing families and schools today: the rise in marijuana vaping among adolescents. Unlike smoking a joint, vaping marijuana has minimal odor, making it easier to hide from parents and teachers. A highly effective vape detector, at least in the school setting, can make picking up its presence easier.

Marijuana Vaping Statistics

Frequent vaping of marijuana – vaping six or more times within the past 30 days – increased from 2.1% to 5.4% from 2017 to 2019 across all demographic groups, according to a National Institute on Drug Abuse study of more than 51,000 U.S. school-aged students.

The greatest vaping increases were among teens who also used nicotine and alcohol – young people who vape and smoke nicotine were 40 times more likely also to vape and smoke marijuana.

In a meta-analysis review of 17 studies from the U.S. and Canada totaling about 200,000 adolescents, past 12-month use of marijuana vape doubled from 2017 to 2020.

The Appeal of Vaping Marijuana

In addition to a nearly odorless experience, vaping marijuana makes it easier to deliver higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. The preference for cannabis products has shifted from dried herb vaping to oil vaping, as THC concentration can reach as high as 95 percent. This concentration increases the chances of adverse health outcomes, especially in young individuals whose brains are not fully developed until age 25.

Additional reasons for the surge in marijuana vaping include:

  • Vaping delivery systems are plentiful

  • The legalization of marijuana in some areas makes it more available to youth

  • Teens are exposed to and readily view marijuana marketing

  • Decrease in perceived risk of harm toward marijuana

Health Implications

students walking in park away from viewer

Previous Zeptive articles delineating negative impacts on the adolescent brain and lung health remain valid. With the rising prevalence and potency of marijuana vaping, an additional concern is cannabis use disorder, a recognized substance abuse disorder.

Detecting THC

Zeptive has an updated device offering a solution for better identifying and ultimately deterring inside-school vaping, especially marijuana vaping, with its recently fine-tuned THC vape detector. Using empirical data to create a proprietary set of algorithms, the accuracy level of the latest detector is further enhanced. This is an invaluable tool for assisting schools with their efforts to curb student vaping.

By Linda Antinoro

Reviewed by Cindy Bistany, DHSc


  1. Keyes KM, Kreski NT, Ankrum H, Cerdá M, Chen Q, Hasin DS, Martins SS, Olfson M, Miech R. Frequency of adolescent cannabis smoking and vaping in the United States: Trends, disparities and concurrent substance use, 2017-19. Addiction. 2022 Aug;117(8):2316-2324. doi: 10.1111/add.15912. Epub 2022 May 19. PMID: 35588004.

  2. Lim CCW, Sun T, Leung J, et al. Prevalence of Adolescent Cannabis Vaping: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of U.S. and Canadian Studies. JAMA Pediatr. 2022;176(1):42–51.

  3. Stuyt E. The Problem with the Current High Potency THC Marijuana from the Perspective of an Addiction Psychiatrist. Mo Med. 2018 Nov-Dec; 115(6): 482–486.

  4. Winters KC, Mader J, Budney AJ, Stanger C, Knapp AA, Walker DD. Interventions for cannabis use disorder. Curr Opin Psychol. 2021 Apr; 38: 67–74.

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