High school kids are choosing marijuana more and more over cigarettes these days, according to data from a recent survey.
According to USA Today, more high school seniors this year used marijuana than smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days. Additionally, daily marijuana use increased significantly among eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders, with about one in 16 high school seniors using marijuana daily or near-daily.
The data comes from the annual "Monitoring the Future Survey", a national survey of more than 46,000 teens.
Its lead investigator R. Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the White House "drug czar", told USA Today that the publicity surrounding medical marijuana is to blame for the rising use among teens over the last three years.
"I don't have any hesitation telling you that I think the legitimizing of marijuana and calling it medicine is absolutely the wrong message to give to young people," Kerlikowske said.
"Young people are increasingly seeing marijuana as not dangerous," adds Lloyd Johnston of the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research.
16 states, including California and DC, have legalized medical marijuana (see states here). There was a prop on California's November ballot to legalize it for recreation use, but it didn't pass.
Use of marijuana by teens declined from 2002 to 2007, but today's eighth-graders "have been exposed to a very different perspective on the way that the world is looking at marijuana," said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
She also added that because of the acceptance for medical use, teens might tend to view the drug as beneficial, not risky.
Volkow plans to fund research into whether U.S. students' grades and test scores have fallen as marijuana use has increased. She told USA Today that marijuana interferes with memory and learning, which is of particular concern in teens, whose brains aren't yet fully developed.
In addition to marijuana, the survey found that ecstasy use rose in all three grades as well, with significant increases among eighth- and 10th-graders. The rise of use in other drugs haven't changed much since 2004.