Nebraska University researchers find more teens using CBD e-cigs

Researchers from three Nebraska University campuses teamed up to further study adolescents who use e-cigarettes.
Published: Sep. 8, 2023 at 7:12 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Researchers from three Nebraska University campuses teamed up to further study adolescents who use e-cigarettes. The study was conducted over the past year, and it involved 28,291 people between the ages of 11 and 18.

Researchers focused specifically on young people’s use of cannabidiol or CBD products.

“CBD use is a new area that’s not really been explored much, so this study is one of the first to look at CBD use particularly among vapers vs. non-vapers,” said Ming “Bryan” Wang, an associate professor at UNL. “E-cigarette users tend to use more CBD products than non-e-cigarette users, and heavy e-cigarette users tend to use more CBD products as well.”

The correlation between e-cigarette users and CBD consumption is one of many trends highlighted by the study.

The initiative was primarily lead by the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Other partners include the School of Communication at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, the College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Kansas City University.

They found that Hispanic e-cigarette users were more likely than white students to report currently vaping CBD. Almost 26% of Hispanic participants vaped both nicotine and CBD, which is higher than 18.7% of white participants.

The researchers also compared CBD vaping among different sexual orientations. Of the over 2,400 students who used e-cigarettes, 18.2% were heterosexual, 28.6% identified as gay or lesbian, 27.4% were unsure about their orientation and 22.3% identified as bisexual.

Wang said their research could help create public health campaigns to help minorities who may be using vaping products. While teaching Advertising and Public Relations at UNL, Wang is looking at how social media impacts how teenagers consume vaping advertisements online.

“We know adolescents- they’re heavy users of social media, and so they’re exposed to a lot of pro-vaping messages on social media,” Wang said. “We know there is a lot of misinformation half-truths about e-cigarette use, and this misinformation we know can have dire health consequences.”

Recent studies suggest that CBD can damage the lungs, the liver and the male reproductive system. This risks are part of why Lincoln Public Schools is trying to prevent students from vaping.

Last school year, 712 students were caught vaping. Of this total, 453 were in high school, 232 were in middle school and 27 were in elementary school.

“We’re talking kindergarten through 5th grade,” said Ryan Zabawa, LPS director of student services. “So somehow these children are getting their hands on these devices, and that’s not okay. We have to be really vigilant as parents and guardians, community members to ask questions and educate students about the dangers of these.”

If student is found with a vaping product, they undergo a six-hour series of educational sessions about the health risks. The student needs to pass each session with an 80% success rate. Zabawa said law enforcement does not get involved unless the student is also using chemicals like THC. It is illegal in Nebraska for people below the age of 21 to purchase vaping products.

LPS also incorporates the health risks of vaping into their curriculum and rely on a resource called CATCH My Breath. LPS has a community awareness event where parents and families can learn more about this topic on Oct. 19.

In the meantime, Wang said he doesn’t anticipate the university researchers ending their studies soon about e-cigarettes. He said it is “just the beginning.”