Is Juul the Real Gateway Drug?

A new study has found that the percentage of high schoolers that vape weed has almost doubled since 2018. However, the true cause of the change may surprise you.

According to the National Institutes of Health's annual Monitoring the Future survey, up to 14 percent of US high school seniors have admitted to vaping the drug within the last month.

This is a massive change, as the amount of students who previously admitted to using the drug in 2018 was only 7.5%, making it the second-largest annual increase recorded in the survey's 45-year history.

However, while some initially pointed to the growing mainstream acceptance of cannabis as the reason behind the staggering increase, the same study also uncovered another troubling factor which may be the real culprit.

We are seeing a pretty remarkable increase in the use of vaping products to ingest marijuana. National Institute on Drug Abuse Chief of Staff, Dr. Jack Stein

Researchers found that approximately 26% of high school seniors had also vaped nicotine within the previous month, echoing a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2019.

Around 11.7 percent said that they vaped nicotine every day, while approximately 8 percent—compared to 3.6 in 2018—said that they are "hooked" on vaping.

The study confirms that vaping is becoming increasingly popular with US teens, who view it—erroneously or not—as being a safer and more palatable alternative to traditional consumption methods such as smoking.

The Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, stated that the rise in vaping is due to a cultural shift which has seen e-cigarette products become increasingly popular with young adults. And it appears that this change has also altered how teenagers perceive cannabis vaporizers as well.

"We've seen [increases] in the past among the three grades, never at this size that we're observing with vaping. Never," Volkow said.

"Teenagers are believing less and less there's any harm in marijuana, and then on top of that you have sleek, cool devices that actually have become very, very popular among teenagers."

The news has alarmed both lawmakers and health officials, who have been showing increasing concern over the growing popularity of vaporizers ever since the arrival of the infamous "Vape Crisis" in 2019, which saw 2,409 people hospitalised across the US due to a mystery lung disease.

This tragedy [the Vape Crisis] will put pressure on the US government to legalize cannabis, as it is the only viable solution. It will also put pressure on the industry to return to the basics as well and avoid adventurism in putting flavours meant for your mouth, into lungs. Big coffee brands have proven that single-serve technology is the future. Adapting this technology to approved and Licensed LP's cannabis creates less risk for people that are wary of having to deal with the black market pens/black market cannabis. TVape CEO, Nima Noori

Many were alarmed when the scandal initially broke, which saw e-cigarette manufacturers facing accusations of exposing the public to a potentially unsafe product. However, according to the CEO of TVAPE, Nima Noori, the real cause of the hospitalisations may have been Vitamin E Acetate, which was identified by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a "very strong culprit" for vaping related lung injuries.

"At this point our research indicates that the solvents (vitamin E acetate) used in the oils (cannabis oil or e-juice) or fungicides that can transform into hydrogen cyanide when burned, are the main contributors," Noori said.

"Thickening agents have been used to make THC and nicotine vapeable and have been tested with food-grade standards. Significant efforts need to be made to educate and regulate the developers of these oils and to effectively communicate the message: just because the stomach can process something, it does not mean that the lungs can process that material."

"Only by obtaining government inspected THC oil and dry cannabis can you reduce the risk of harm due to improperly developed cannabis vape oil. The public should know that all oils must go through a process of including additives to make the material vapeable. This is why we recommend buying legal dry herb cannabis from a Licenced Producer to enjoy the product the way the grower intended."

If you follow cannabis in any way, shape or form, you've probably heard about the vaping crisis, which has spread to 46 US states and caused at least 12 deaths.

Noori says that another huge factor driving the growing uptake of vaporisers is their convenience and consistency, as it eliminates the need to grind up dried cannabis and regularly clean your smoking device.

As a result, the company intends to launch a new line of "dry herb cartridges" in 2020, known as ArcPods.

The ArcPod cartridges—which are intended to be used with the ZEUS Arc vape—contain organic ground up cannabis, which Noori claims will "bring convenience and consistency to vaporizers". They also will ensure that users get a consistent dosage without the additives, making them an ideal delivery mechanism for medical patients.

"This is the revolution Nespresso and Keurig spearheaded in the coffee industry. The ArcPod used with the ZEUS Arc, is the solution that helps the people that pay attention to healthy eating habits, apply their ideology to their cannabis consumption habits, without compromising convenience or consistency," Noori said.

Source: Company Presentation

"Zeus ArcPods are proprietary to the Zeus Arc Gt and will be filled with handpicked Licenced Producer's strains to ensure quality throughout their cannabis consumption experience. The ArcPod has been engineered for full spectrum vaporization and terpene expression, the way it is naturally available in the plant."

"The plant has been used by humans for thousands of years. Concentrates, in comparison, are a recent phenomenon and with flavour additives meant for your mouth, they present a certain risk that is uncertain to the lungs. In my humble opinion, consuming any type of concentrate is riskier than consuming the herb in its natural form," he said.

Luckily, one positive change uncovered by the study was a significant decline in teen smoking rates. The survey reported that less than 6% of high school students had smoked in the last month, which is a substantial improvement compared to the 20% smoking rate recorded in 2009.

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Hugo Gray
Hugo Gray

Hugo Gray is a Melbourne-based journalist with a body of work that covers a diverse range of topics, including immigration law, sex technology, and now the rapidly expanding cannabis industry.

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