The Surprising Reason Many Teenagers Aren’t Smoking Marijuana

It seems pot has fallen out of favor with teenagers. Why? Because they’re smoking less of everything, tobacco included.


That’s according to a new study that spent 25 years monitoring more than a million teens (1991 to 2016). Findings are somewhat of a paradox. Researchers discovered that while teens who consider marijuana safe are more likely to do the drug, they weren’t indulging.

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The reason is a fairly simple one. Teenagers today are less inclined to smoke cigarettes (or drink alcohol, for that matter), which is an indicator of whether or not they’re likely to pick up a joint. Not smoking cigarettes is conducive to not smoking cannabis. In fact, the number of teenagers interested in smoking and drinking is steadily declining. 

Richard Miech, a research professor at the University of Michigan who led the study, found that a decline in adolescent cigarette and alcohol use over the past decade has brought marijuana prevalence to “historic lows.” That reasoning seems to explain why the use of marijuana isn’t accelerating even though more teenagers consider it a harmless drug. 

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According to the study, “researchers posit that youth who do not use cigarettes or drink alcohol are less likely to experience associated processes that promote marijuana use, such as exposure to drug-using peer networks and the ‘priming’ of the brain’s reward system for substance use.”

Miech tells Medical Express:

I think a big message of this study is that policies and interventions that reduce teen smoking seem to have the added benefit of reducing teen marijuana use.

But again, teens who believe pot is harmless are still more likely to use it. And that number hasn’t changed much over the past decade; the percentage of high school seniors who’ve smoked marijuana continues to hover around 30-percent.

Dr. Nicholas Chadi, a pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital, tells Medical Express “Marijuana is harmful to the developing adolescent brain” and is more likely to become a gateway drug for teenagers who use it.

Conclusion: Perceived risk of marijuana remains tightly associated with use, and adolescent marijuana prevalence today would be at or near record highs if cigarette use had not declined since 2005,

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