More high school students in the United States now smoke marijuana than smoke cigarettes, according to the federal government.
A youth risk survey [PDF] from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday reported that 23 percent of high school students said they had recently smoked cannabis, while 18 percent said they had smoked cigarettes.
Among students nationwide, the prevalence of current marijuana use increased from 1991 to 1999 (14.7 percent to 26.7 percent) and then decreased from 1999 to 2011 (26.7 percent to 23.1 percent). The prevalence of current marijuana use increased from 2009 (20.8 percent) to 2011 (23.1 percent).
Nationwide, 39.9 percent of students had ever used marijuana in their life. Overall, the prevalence of ever having used cannabis was higher among male students (42.5 percent) than among females (37.2 percent); higher among white male (40.3 percent), black male (48.5 percent) and Hispanic male (45.0 percent) than among white female (35.4 percent), black female (37.7 percent), and Hispanic female (39.1 percent) students, respectively.
Overall, the prevalence of having ever used marijuana was higher among black (43.0 percent) and Hispanic (42.1 percent) than white (37.9 percent) students, and higher among black male (48.5 percent) and Hispanic male (45.0 percent) than white male (40.3 percent) students.
Among students nationwide, the prevalence of having ever used marijuana increased during 1991-1999 (31.3 percent to 47.2 percent), and then decreased during 1999-2011 (47.2 percent to 39.9 percent). The prevalence of ever having used marijuana increased from 2009 (36.8 percent) to 2011 (39.9 percent).
The prevalence of having tried marijuana before age 13 increased during from 1991 to 1999 (7.4 percent to 11.3 percent) and then decreased from 1999 to 2011 (11.3 percent to 8.1 percent). The prevalence of having tried marijuana before age 13 did not change significantly from 2009 (7.5 percent) to 2011 (8.1 percent).
Nationwide, 5.9 percent of students had used marijuana on school property one or more times during the 30 days prior to the survey. The prevalence of having used cannabis on school property decreased from 1995 to 2005 (8.8 percent to 4.5 percent) and then increased from 200t to 2011 (4.5 percent to 5.9 percent). The prevalence of having used marijuana on school property increased from 2009 (4.6 percent) to 2011 (5.9 percent).
Teen tobacco use has been falling for decades, showing the effectiveness of a model based on education and information rather than prosecution and incarceration. Marijuana use rose during the late 1960s and 70s, then fell during the “Just Say No” Reagan years of the 1980s before rising again.
Marijuana and cigarettes were at almost the same level occasionally, but last year was the first time joints clearly passed cigarettes.
Another independent survey from the University of Michigan also found that marijuana use was higher than cigarette smoking. According to one Michigan expert, modern teens seem to view marijuana as less dangerous than cigarettes — once again showing how powerful correct information and education can be.