Teens Choosing Marijuana Over Cigarettes

by Liz Colville

For the first time since 1981, data shows that high school seniors are now choosing pot over cigarettes. This is exciting news, except for our insides — I recently learned from a musician named Lissie that pot smoke is much hotter than cigarette smoke, and throat and oral cancer do not have very good prognoses, people.

But if you can afford a vaporizer, by all means. Weed is, as you know, a natural painkiller. It can also help some people relax, help others refrain from being so relaxed, and help still others adopt a loose, improvisational style of instrument-playing. According to A Friend of Mine, it can also promote better sleep, a feeling of floating, a newfound commitment to Glee, a more patient approach to reading books on an iPhone, and so on.

President Obama’s so-called “drug czar,” Gil Kerlikowske, is obviously not thrilled about the news, which comes from the National Institute on Drug Abuse report “Monitoring the Future.” He blames measures like California’s (failed) Prop 19 for influencing teens into thinking they actually have to make a choice between tobacco and ganja. The latter is not, he says, merely “smoked medicine.” Fair enough: there’s evidence it’s a gateway drug; it can make you think the FBI is at your door; mixing it with alcohol can be troublesome. But will more access lead to more lackadaisical teens? I’m inclined to say yes, based on my “research” of the 18-and-over drinking law in the land where I grew up.

Here are some numbers from the report, which is about all kinds of drugs, not just pot, courtesy the Los Angeles Times:

…the proportion of 12th-graders who acknowledged daily use of marijuana reached 6.1% — the highest point since the early 1980s — and the numbers of eighth- and 10th-graders smoking pot daily also climbed, to 1% and 3%, respectively.

8% [of high school seniors] said they had abused the prescription pain medication Vicodin in the previous year, down from 9.7% in 2009.

Twelfth-graders continued to report the nonmedical use of drugs prescribed for attention deficit disorder — about 6.5% acknowledged taking them in the last year, and roughly the same number used amphetamines.

These last two are more of a concern than any of the pot data, are they not? But here is the central stat to our piece:

21.4% of high school seniors said they had used marijuana in the last 30 days, while 19.2% reported smoking cigarettes in the same time period.