High School Students Smoking More Pot Than Tobacco

Dr. Italia V. Rolle, PhD and Dr. Tim McAfee, MD Office on Smoking and Health National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion CDC

Marijuana plant (Cannabis sativa)

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Italia V. Rolle, PhD and Dr. Tim McAfee, MD
Office on Smoking and Health
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Since 2010, the proportion of U.S. 12th grade students who used marijuana during the preceding 30 days (21.4%) has surpassed the proportion who used cigarettes (19.2%). Negative outcomes associated with cigarette and marijuana use include addiction to one or both substances and diminished cognitive function, which can lead to lower academic achievement. CDC analyzed data from the 1997–2013 national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (YRBS) among U.S. non-Hispanic white (white), non-Hispanic black (black), and Hispanic students in grades 9–12 to examine trends in the prevalence of current

1) exclusive cigarette or cigar use,
2) exclusive marijuana use, and
3) any use of the three products.

CDC further examined the prevalence of current marijuana use among current users of cigarettes or cigars. During 1997–2013, exclusive cigarette or cigar use declined overall by 64%, from 20.5% to 7.4% (p<0.01). However, exclusive marijuana use more than doubled overall from 4.2% to 10.2% (p<0.01). Any cigarette, cigar, or marijuana use decreased overall from 46.1% to 29.9% (p<0.01), whereas marijuana use among cigarette or cigar users increased from 51.2% to 62.4%. Considerable increases were identified among black and Hispanic students toward the end of the study period for exclusive marijuana use and marijuana use among cigarette or cigar users. Increased exclusive marijuana use and use of marijuana among cigarette or cigar users could undermine success in reducing tobacco use among youths.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: Clinicians can ensure that adolescents and their parents are aware that they may be exposed to marijuana use, since use is rising as cigarette use declines. However, adolescents can also be told that most high school students (70%) do not use marijuana or cigarettes/cigars.  Because the rise in marijuana use has happened concurrently with an increased perception that marijuana is “safe” or harmless, it is important to be sure parents and adolescents are aware of the known dangers of marijuana use, including potential for addiction, negative effects on brain development, and impaired driving. Clinicians and parents should encourage adolescents not to use any form of tobacco or marijuana.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Tobacco and marijuana are related behaviors. Enhanced and sustained tobacco and marijuana use surveillance can help in monitoring trends and patterns of use, including the measurement of progress toward achieving Healthy People 2020 objectives related to the use of these substances among youth. Future research may address the long-term consequences of marijuana use, especially regarding pregnancy and developmental effects on brain function, as well the impact of regular long-term use and heart disease, cancer, and respiratory disease.


Cigarette, Cigar, and Marijuana Use Among High School Students — United States, 1997–2013

Weekly October 16, 2015 / 64(40);1136-41

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Dr. Italia V. Rolle, PhD and Dr. Tim McAfee, MD (2015). High School Students Smoking More Pot Than Tobacco

Last Updated on October 16, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD