High schoolers twice as likely to smoke pot as cigarettes

Fair warning to other states who are considering this ill-conceived social experiment with the future of our children – don’t go there.

Under the heading “We told you so” is this revelation that youth marijuana use is going up because of drug legalization campaigns.

Instead of ramping up education first, some states have opted to buy drug education on the “installment plan” hoping that pot proceeds will flow through state bank accounts soon enough to undo all of the “reverse drug education” that has been going on for years – i.e. tobacco smoke “kills” but marijuana smoke “heals.”

While some folks in Washington and Colorado appear willing to be the guinea pigs for the most radical pot policy in the world, none of the rest of us have to join them.

Our country is full of examples of how positive education campaigns can save lives and influence human behavior — tobacco, seat belts, designated drivers, bike helmets, recycling, and many more. And hopefully, all of the wonderful prevention people in these states will find new and creative ways to protect their youth and turn things around. In the meantime however, we should all resolve to step up the fight against legalization efforts in every state as well as increase our drug education efforts in every community.

Let’s do drug education first, and with the same resolve that we tackled big tobacco, because education works when we do enough of it.


Wash. students: Pot more popular than cigarettes

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington high school students who participated in a statewide survey say they are twice as likely to smoke marijuana as cigarettes, and the state’s top health official said Thursday she’s worried that a new marijuana law may make prevention efforts more difficult.

High school smoking has decreased significantly across the state, with cigarette smoking down in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12, but the number of high school students who believe using marijuana is risky is also at a low point, health officials said after releasing the 2012 survey results.

More than half of 10th graders said it is easy to get marijuana and about 19 percent said they smoked marijuana within 30 days of the survey. About 27 percent of 12th graders said they smoked pot.

More than 200,000 youth took the voluntary and anonymous survey in October.

In November, Washington and Colorado voters legalized marijuana possession for adults over 21. Possession remains illegal for youth.

Washington Health Secretary Mary Selecky expressed concern that marijuana prevention efforts aren’t ready to ramp up in response to the new state law.

“As the perception of harm goes down, use goes up,” she said.

Some of Washington’s anticipated tax revenue from sales of marijuana at state licensed stores will be devoted to youth prevention education. But Selecky said marijuana stores are expected to open before new money for prevention efforts flows to the state. She noted that the state has worked hard to keep tobacco out of the hands of minors by making it illegal for anyone under 19 to buy cigarettes, but kids are still getting their hands on tobacco.

Washington already does some youth drug prevention, but to get the results seen in smoking prevention, they will need to increase their efforts significantly, Selecky said.

“We have our work cut out for us,” she said.

A University of Washington researcher who supported the new marijuana law said it’s a big improvement over prohibition alone, since the government has done a lousy job of educating young people about marijuana.

“More adolescents reducing their use of tobacco is an indicator, as I see it, of the effectiveness of well-funded, science-based education,” said Roger Roffman, a professor emeritus of social work and a therapist in private practice. “If that can work with tobacco, why wouldn’t it work with regard to marijuana?”

He expects this public health effort, which was not included in the Colorado law, will be more effective in preventing harm, and encouraging healthy decisions than prohibition.

The healthy youth survey conducted in 2012 also found that fewer students are using alcohol, compared with 2010. About 23 percent of students in 10th grade reported drinking alcohol over the previous 30 days, compared with 28 percent in 2010. That number peaked at 45 percent in 1999. The 12th grade numbers dropped from 40 percent in 2010 to 36 percent in 2012.

The Healthy Youth Survey is taken every two years by students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12, in more than 1,000 public schools in Washington.