The recent study, “Co-Use of Tobacco Products and Cannabis Is Associated with Absenteeism and Lower Grades in California High School Students,” conducted by researchers at UC Davis aimed to understand the impact of combined tobacco and cannabis use on high school students’ academic performance and attendance. In this study (as in many others), the term “tobacco use” not only includes vaping (despite the fact that vaping products contain no tobacco), but seemingly refers mainly to it, as tobacco use and e-cigarette use are at some points used interchangeably.

Using data from the 2021-22 California Healthy Kids Survey, which surveyed 287,653 9th and 11th graders, the study found that 3.7% of high school students used both tobacco and cannabis, while 3.7% used cannabis only and 1.7% used tobacco only.

Students who reported using both tobacco and cannabis had the highest rates of absenteeism, missing an average of three days of school in the past month, compared to those who did not use either product or used them individually. Additionally, co-users of tobacco and cannabis were more likely to have lower grades than non-users or those who used either substance individually. Their average grades were approximately half a grade lower than non-users, at around 5.08, representing mostly B- and C-level grades.

The reason for these connections, theorized the researchers, could be the fact that the brain reaches full maturity approximately when one turns 25. This is known to be the age when one’s prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in taking decision is fully formed. Therefore, exposing one’s brain to certain substances before this stage, might disrupt their brain development, particularly in parts related to attention and learning.

In light of the alleged findings, the study concluded that comprehensive efforts are required to prevent and reduce substance use among youth, emphasizing the need to address both vaping and cannabis use.

Causation or just correlation?

Studies have found that many teens with mental illness, as well as those who have academic and life struggles in general, are more likely to vape.
Meanwhile, other studies and countless experts in the field of addiction have explained that the relationship between vaping (as well as the use of other substances) and behavioural and mood disorders in teens, is more complex than led on by the study above. Teens with a lifestyle or personality type which predisposes them to behavioural and mood disorders, are more likely to use substances to self medicate or simply to engage in risky behaviours that give them an adrenaline rush.

In fact, smoking cessation expert and researcher Dr. Colin Mendelsohn has previously told Vaping Post that studies have found that many teens with mental illness, as well as those who have academic and life struggles in general, are more likely to vape. This is due to the fact that in most cases nicotine relieves stress and improves mood. “In this survey 51% said they vape to relieve anxiety. The same findings apply to smoking.”

All this was reflected in a study by the University of Surrey looking into the effects of vaping on the sleep patterns and mental health of young adults aged 18-25. The research team found that vapers exhibited significantly lower sleep quality, with over three-quarters experiencing symptoms of insomnia. To this effect, vapers were more likely to be ‘night owls’ and report higher levels of loneliness.

Teaching mindfulness could nip many teenage problems in the bud

Naturally, the vaping could lead to a vicious cycle where the poor sleep could be worsened by the stimulative properties of nicotine, possibly leading to increased nicotine consumption to combat daytime lethargy. The research team found that anxiety levels were heightened in vapers, with 95.9% showing clinical levels of anxiety symptoms. The study did not assume that the sleeping issues and the anxiety were caused by the nicotine consumption, but rather that these teens turned to nicotine to self medicate and in some cases experiment with different substances, because of those issues and/or their personality traits.

The research team also examined levels of mindfulness and rumination, finding that vapers had lower mindfulness and higher rumination levels compared to non-users. In fact, the study highlighted that mindfulness training could potentially help deter young people from vaping. Lead study author Dr. Simon Evans emphasized the importance of addressing the negative impacts of vaping on physical and mental health, emphasizing on the need for interventions focusing on mindfulness and combating rumination to reduce vape use among young adults.

Do Teen Vapers Try to Quit Vaping? What Does Science Tell Us?

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