Date of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Type



Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Director of Thesis

Dr. Myriam Torres

Second Reader

Dr. Edena Guimaraes


Vaping (smoking a vaporized liquid with an active ingredient) has had an upward trend in high school populations (ages 13-18) within the last decade, mainly due to misinformation and targeting from companies that sell e-cigarettes (142, 7). The most common substances that are vaped in teens are nicotine and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the active ingredient in marijuana) (147). Nicotine and THC bind to NAchR and CB1 receptors that affect certain parts of the dopamine reward pathway, such as the prefrontal cortex, the ventral tegmental area, and the ventral striatum in the brain (44,106). Dysfunction within these pathways have been associated with an increase of impulsivity, which is linked to high risk behaviors (39). There also have been studies directly connecting nicotine usage and THC usage with impulsivity. Thus, we hypothesize that vaping these substances will have a positive association with high risk behaviors linked with impulsivity. Using the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) survey, analyses were conducted to assess whether there is an association between vaping and impulsive high-risk behaviors such as hazardous driving, sexual practices, and violence among high school students. We found that the prevalence of e-cigarette use was about 13% within the general high school population reported. Furthermore, we discovered a strong association between vaping and the health risk behaviors listed above. For example, teens who reported vaping were 8.5 times as likely to drive while drunk, 14.3 times as likely to use heroin, and 3.9 times as likely to get into a physical fight. Males were more likely to report vaping (OR for female vaper was .678 with a CI of .6107-.7528), but Hispanics/Latinos were less likely to do so (.8013 OR with .7057-.9099). Additionally, teens reported to either have vaped once recently (36.6% from the population that vaped), or currently vape daily (16.3% from the population that vaped), indicating the quick progression of addiction. With this information, future public health interventions can focus on specific at-risk populations.

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