A new survey of US teens found that nearly 23 percent of 12th graders used pot over the last month. This is in comparison of only 18.7 percent who said they smoked cigarettes. According to an annual study released Wednesday by the University of Michigan, US teenagers are turning away from cigarettes and alcohol in favor of marijuana.
One of every 15 high school seniors reported smoking pot on a daily or near daily basis, the highest rate since 1981. Also, one of every nine high school seniors reported using synthetic marijuana, sometimes called Spice or K2, within the previous 12 months. Marijuana use rose among 10th- and 12th-graders. Cigarette use is down among all three grades, dropping 60 percent during the last 15 years, according to the survey. Binge drinking is also at a historic low among the combined grades surveyed, down from 41 percent five years ago to 22 percent this year. Binge drinking is defined as four drinks in one sitting for women, five for men.
But researchers speaking at the National Press Club in Washington said that teenagers are turning to alternate tobacco products, such as hookahs, small cigars, and smokeless tobacco. Prescription-drug use is also on the rise. Findings among 12th graders show that 36.4 percent used marijuana in the past year while 6.6 percent used it daily, up from 31.5 and 5 percent, respectively, from five years ago.
The reason why marijuana is becoming so popular is that “the perceived risk is down” which creates “the norms against its use to weaken,” says Lloyd Johnson, the survey’s principal investigator at the University of Michigan. And fewer “kids view smoking marijuana regularly as having a harmful affect,” says Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Other drugs showing some evidence of decline in use this year include cocaine, crack cocaine and inhalants.
The survey polled 46,773 students from 400 public and private schools across the US. The survey is in its 36th year and is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health.