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Considering that cigarettes are legal and marijuana is widely illegal, you may assume more people stayed on the side of legality, or at least the numbers fell on the side of what’s most available. But for the first time ever, more high school seniors in the US are smoking weed than cigarettes on a daily basis.
This barely changes the younger teens are. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an equal number of sophomores – 3 per cent – use marijuana daily as smoke cigarettes. Why is this? Well, the reason weed use has overtaken cigarettes is because of the rapid decline in regular smoking among high school students over the past five years, according to the Atlantic. For example, among 10th graders, there has been a 55 per cent drop in the daily smoking rate since 2010.
In an interview with the site, the NIDA director Nora Volkow put the reduction in smoking down to “prevention campaigns targeting adolescents specifically.” She also added that the rise in e-cigs and hookahs had contributed to this decline. Surely America’s increasingly liberal attitude towards legalisation across states is contributing to more people smoking weed given that it’s more or less as readily available as cigarettes?
Volkow said that while she was pleased that fewer teens were smoking cigarettes, the growing acceptance of weed concerns her because preliminary studies show changes in the brain structure of young people who smoke marijuana. She and other scientists worry that when teens, whose brains aren’t yet fully formed, flood their systems with cannabinoids from marijuana, the wiring process between neurons can be harmed. “We cannot be complacent,” Volkow said. “The rates of drug use, legal and illegal, are still very high.”
This is an American study and there’s no recent investigation into cigarette use vs weed use in the UK – it would be interesting to see how that fared here.