Adolescents; UTSA criminal justice professor Dylan Jackson recently published one of the first studies to explore emerging drug use in the form of adolescent vaping and its association with delinquency among 8th and 10th grade students across the nation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 4.9 million middle and high school students use some type of tobacco product in 2018, up from 3.6 million in 2017.

Prevent adolescents

Moreover, the percentage of high school age children who report using e-cigarettes increase by more than 75 percent between 2017 and 2018. New legislation is targeting this dangerous trend. Earlier this year, the FDA introduce new policies to prevent adolescents from accessing flavor tobacco products; hence including e-cigarettes. U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell and Tim Kaine have also introduce a bipartisan bill to raise the federal smoking age to 21.

The propose bill includes the use of e-cigarettes, citing it as an “epidemic” among adolescents that has been largely overlooked. Using a nationally representative sample of 8th and 10th graders in 2017; also Jackson find that adolescents who vape are at an elevate risk; so of engaging in criminal activities such as violence and property theft.

He also found that teens who vape marijuana are at a significantly higher risk of violent; also property offenses than youth who ingest marijuana through traditional means. He believes that these findings might be explain by the ability to conceal an illegal substance through the mechanism of vaping; which can reduce the likelihood of detection and apprehension among youth who vape illicit substances; also thereby embolden them to engage other delinquent behaviors.

The vaping devices

Ultimately, he argues that youth who vape illicit substances; such as marijuana may easily go unnoticed and/or unchallenged due to the ambiguity surrounding the substance they are vaping and the ease of concealability of vaping devices; which can look like a flash drive. These behaviors include four categories of delinquency: violent delinquency including fighting at school, engaging in a gang fight, causing injury to another or carrying a weapon to school.

Jackson also discuss other factors relate to vaping; so such as youth perceptions of media messaging by product manufacturers that vaping is acceptable; so because it is a “healthier” option than traditional forms of smoking nicotine or marijuana. Our hope is that this research will lead to the recognition among policymakers, practitioners; also parents that the growing trend of adolescent vaping is not simply unhealthy or worse; hence an innocuous pastime but that it may in fact be a red flag or an early marker of risk pertaining to violence, property offending, and other acts of misconduct.