Teenagers who vape marijuana are at greater risk of experiencing more serious side effects than those who smoke it, according to recent research.

In a compilation of studies published by JAMA Pediatrics, it was found that teens in their senior year of high school were most likely to be vaping marijuana compared to younger adolescents. When compared to the risks of smoking marijuana, which is detrimental to one's health because of the combination of tobacco and THC, the study’s authors warn that today’s marijuana is more potent in its THC make-up than in years past.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the average amount of THC in marijuana seized by law enforcement was less than 4% in the 1990s but more than 15% by 2018. The NIDA also warned that some marijuana strains sold by state dispensaries can be even higher with some products containing as much as 80% THC.

THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis that causes a “high” in users. Abuse of THC has been connected to dulled cognitive abilities, breathing problems, and even a heightened chance of experiencing a heart attack while young.

In another survey, the NIDA found that 27.9% of 12th graders reported vaping weed in 2020. Teen use of marijuana is considered particularly problematic because it can disrupt the development of the brain, which does not finish forming until the mid-twenties, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The use of cannabis products with high THC [that are] easily achievable through vaping raises several potential problems," Carmen Lim, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Queensland in Australia and a co-author of the study, told CNN.

“Not only is it linked to poorer cognitive development in adolescents, [but] it could increase risk of dependence, other substance use and many other health, social, and behavioral problems later in life."

Studying cannabis is still subject to legal hurdles in the U.S. because it remains illegal in many uses and at a federal level. To date, 18 states have decriminalized and legalized marijuana usage as the public attitude towards it has grown more positive. In July, Democratic members of Congress discussed a bill to legalize marijuana at a federal level even as President Joe Biden remains opposed.

Posting on Twitter, Lim advised that more regulations should be put in place by states that are or have already legalized marijuana usage. Among the suggestions she offered are regulating targeted internet advertisements of THC products and "plain packaging and health warnings" on products to "increase health knowledge among adolescents."

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