Pot Beats Cigarettes Among High School Seniors

Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dey/86298632/">Dey Alexander</a>/flickr

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


In the past month, 21 percent of high school seniors smoked pot, while just 19 percent lit up a cigarette. That’s according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) annual Monitoring the Future survey, released yesterday. The LA Times reports that it’s the first time this has happened since 1981.

But while the Times called the findings a “victory for public health campaigns aimed at stamping out cigarette smoking among teens,” don’t expect the FDA to adopt a pot leaf for any of its proposed anti-cigarette warning labels. The survey, which also questioned 8th and 10th graders about their illicit drug habits, noted a “significant” rise in daily marijuana use across all three grades.

In a press release, NIDA director Nora Volkow said the developing brains of pot-smoking teens placed them at “particular risk… Not only does marijuana affect learning, judgment, and motor skills, but research tells us that about 1 in 6 people who start using it as adolescents become addicted.”

Obama drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, in the same press release, called the survey’s findings “disappointing.” He made an apparent reference to Prop 19

California’s failed ballot initiative to legalize weed—saying, “Mixed messages about drug legalization, particularly marijuana, may be to blame.”

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws begged to differ. In a blog post yesterday, it blamed Kerlikowske’s “failed policies” of prohibition and argued that no state that has legalized medical marijuana has seen a jump in youth pot use. (At a Washington press conference, Kerlikowski said, somewhat incorrectly, “Calling marijuana ‘smoked medicine’ is absolutely incorrect.”)

In any case, NIDA wasn’t even encouraged by the alleged “victory” against Big Tobacco. The decline in teen cigarette use “has stalled in all three grades after several years of marked improvement,” its press release said, and teens are increasingly smoking cigars and hookahs. Hookahs!

Also of note: The survey asked about the use of the somehow-still-legal (in most states) herb salvia, which has been met with fresh ire lately after pop starlet Miley Cyrus was caught smoking it from a bong last month. Salvia, which can bring about uncontrollable giggle-fits and the potential for short-lived but intense, otherworldly hallucinations, was reportedly sampled by about 6 percent of high school seniors this year and the year before.

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate