Fewer Teens Smoking Cigarettes, but Marijuana Use Doubles

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Monday, October 19, 2015

Fewer Teens Smoking Cigarettes, but Marijuana Use Doubles

*The following is excerpted from an online article from HealthDay.

While worried parents may take comfort in new statistics that show smoking among American teenagers has dropped 64 percent in recent years, the same report also shows that marijuana use has doubled.

And plenty of youngsters still light up. A full 30 percent of white, black and Hispanic teens smoked cigarettes, cigars or marijuana in 2013, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. The researchers tracked teen smoking rates from 1997 to 2013.

"The nation's remarkable progress in reducing youth smoking since 1997 is great news, but the battle is far from over," said Vince Willmore, vice president for communications at Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Overall, the number of teens who smoked cigarettes or cigars dropped from 20.5 percent to slightly more than 7 percent, while marijuana use went from 4 percent to 10 percent, the report found.

Notably, marijuana use jumped from 51 percent to 62 percent among those teens who smoked cigarettes or cigars, the findings showed.

By 2013, black and Hispanic students made up a considerable percentage of the increase in marijuana use, the investigators found. From 2009 to 2013, marijuana use among black teens increased from just under 11 percent to nearly 17 percent, while it jumped from 8.5 percent to just over 14 percent among Hispanic teens.

"Thus, public health advances in adolescent health resulting from lower cigarette and cigar use might be attenuated by increases in marijuana use, which vary by racial/ethnic subgroup," the CDC researchers, led by Italia Rolle, wrote in their report.

Dr. Tim McAfee, director of CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, believes that more acceptance of marijuana as a harmless drug is driving its increased use among teens.

"Over the last 10 or 15 years, there has been a change in public perception of marijuana," he said. "There is the idea that marijuana is not something you need to worry about."

Because marijuana has been illegal, little is known about its long-term effects, McAfee added. "There has not been an effort [to conduct research] about the downside to marijuana use," he said.

However, one of the downsides is its negative effect on the developing adolescent brain, McAfee said. And some teens can become dependent on it, he added.

In addition, unlike cigarettes, no tobacco-like media campaigns are telling kids not to use marijuana, McAfee pointed out. "Nothing is being done," he said.

The report was published Oct. 16 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

Source: HealthDay