American teens are smoking less, as much as a 64 percent drop in recent years, but a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that teen use of pot has doubled, according to HealthDay.
Vince Wilmore, vice president for communications at Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, commented, “The nation’s remarkable progress in reducing youth smoking since 1997 is great news, but the battle is far from over.”
Tracking smoking rates from 1997 to 2013, the report, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, shows that nearly a third of white, black and Hispanic teens smoked cigarettes, cigars or marijuana in 2013.
Wilmore continued, “This study reminds us that we know exactly what to do to further reduce smoking: increase tobacco taxes, enact smoke-free laws, fund effective prevention programs and implement hard-hitting mass media campaigns. These proven strategies must be continued and strengthened.”
Targeted prevention programs and policies that involve parents, schools, communities and the media were recommended by the CDC researchers.
The report found that teen smoking of cigarettes or cigars dropped from 20.5 percent to a little over 7 percent, but pot use went from 4 percent to 10 percent. Among those teens who smoked cigarettes or cigars, use of marijuana climbed from 51 percent to 62 percent.
The investigators found that black and Hispanic students constituted a considerable percentage of the increase in marijuana use by 2013. Use of marijuana among black teens increased from just under 11 percent to nearly 17 percent from 2009 to 2013, and among Hispanic teens, it jumped from 8.5 percent to a little over 14 percent.
The CDC researchers wrote in their report, “Thus, public health advances in adolescent health resulting from lower cigarette and cigar use might be attenuated by increases in marijuana use, which vary by racial/ethnic subgroup.”
Dr. Tim McAfee, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said, “Over the last 10 or 15 years, there has been a change in public perception of marijuana,” suggesting that increased use among teens is driven by a greater acceptance of marijuana as a harmless drug.
He also pointed out that unlike tobacco, no media campaigns are telling kids not to use marijuana.