Updated after the jump: Both tobacco and marijuana use are on the rise. So why is weed getting all the flack after today's report? The experts weigh in.
Don't you just love watching statisticians get all tussled about the numeric rebellions of today's youth? According to a new federal study, daily marijuana use among 12th graders is up 1.1 percent from last year -- while 8th and 10th graders are steadily catching up as well.
That's a pretty hefty jump: from 5.1 percent in 2009 to 6.2 percent in 2010. Then again, get a load of the sweet numbers from 1978:
Monitoring the Future used a "multistage sampling procedure" that surveyed 48,000 kids from 380 schools. The study is legit enough for Time Magazine to be smearing its results all over the nation this morning, though it's somewhat misrepresenting the data: Time claims more high school seniors smoke marijuana than cigarettes, but that's only on a monthly basis. On the daily, 10.7 percent of 12th graders still smoke at least one cigarette.
Still -- why the new peak in monthly pot use? Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, spewed
her his theories this morning:
"Mixed messages about drug legalization, particularly marijuana, may be to blame. Such messages certainly don't help parents who are trying to prevent kids from using drugs. The Obama administration is aggressively addressing the threat of drug use and its consequences through a balanced and comprehensive drug control strategy, but we need parents and other adults who influence children as full partners in teaching young people about the risks and harms associated with drug use, including marijuana."
Obama should be a little more understanding. Without his "goof off" phase, who knows where he would be now! Let's take a short walk down memory lane:
"I will confess to you that I was kind of a goof off in high school as my mom reminded me," Obama said to a room full of high schoolers back in 2007. "I went to high school in Hawaii, so there's a lot of opportunity to goof off because the weather is really good all the time. ... You know, got into drinking and experimenting with drugs. There was a whole stretch of time where I didn't apply myself. It wasn't until I got out of ... high school, and went to college that I started realizing, man, I wasted a lot of time."
Yeah, come on, POTUS by age 48? What a slacker.
In other words, kids of America, don't sweat the disdain from statistical giants, and your friends in California will work on the medical-marijuana shops and that Prop. 19 stuff. Legal weed in 2012! Si se puede!
Update: The Drug Policy Alliance, a national pro-legalization org, is running with the Time article -- saying that marijuana use is now surpassing tobacco use among teens, and that this shows the effectiveness of tobacco education in schools.
However, a closer look at the report shows that tobacco numbers for 12th graders have ceased to decline for the first time in years. Furthermore, 8th and 12th graders actually smoked more cigarettes in 2010 than last year.
Lloyd Johnston, principal investigator for the study, says that a loss of funding for tobacco-smoking prevention programs is to blame for younger kids picking up cigarettes.
While the Drug Policy Alliance has a point -- education is more effective than criminalization -- it shouldn't be misconstruing tobacco use as currently under control. Its press release reads:
"Look at U.S. tobacco policy. Both teen and adult tobacco use is at record lows and we are achieving that without criminalization and mass arrests. And because it is legal the government can control, regulate and tax it - unlike marijuana or other prohibited drugs."
But we aren't "achieving that," and study investigator Johnston blames it on the drying up of the nationwide anti-smoking Truth campaign. He adds that Monitoring the Future has long found that pot use is much more common among cigarette smokers.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
The American Legacy for Health, who runs Truth, confirmed Johnston's theories this morning:
"As states have shifted their tobacco settlement dollars away from effective tobacco control and prevention programs to fill budget shortfalls, it is our youth who are paying the price. ... [Truth's] national broadcast presence has been diminished by a lack of funding that is mirrored in the increase in smoking rates over the same time period when the U.S. youth smoking declines began to level off."
Still, Bill Piper from the Drug Policy Alliance brushes off the 8th and 10th grade tobacco surge and says, "It's still far below it's 1996 peak, whereas daily marijuana use in high schoolers is where it was in the early 1980s."
How 'bout we legalize pot, put some of that revenue back into the Truth campaign (since cig smoking leads to pot smoking anyway), and both camps can be happy?