Cigarette Smoking At All-Time Lows (But Media Hypes Marijuana’s Rise)

The latest data from the annual Monitoring the Future study is out, covering the results of their survey of young people’s use of drugs.

The headline at the University of Michigan, which conducts the study, read “Daily marijuana use among U.S. college students highest since 1980.” Michigan Live reported “Marijuana use among college students at a 35-year high,” CBS Baltimore warned, “Daily Marijuana Use Amongst College Students On The Rise” and KRQE Albuquerque cautioned, “Marijuana use soars among college students.”

It’s true—according to the survey, 5.9 percent of undergraduate college students are smoking pot daily, the highest recorded rate since 1980, when 7.2 percent were toking daily.

However, there is a bigger story that a few media outlets hinted at as they tried to scare people about the increase in voting-age-adult pot smoking.

TIME noted that “College Kids Are Smoking Pot Over Cigarettes,” Russia Today stated that “College students now consume more marijuana than cigarettes” and reported, “Daily marijuana use by college students surpasses cigarettes for the first time.”

But even those headlines downplay the bigger story by providing no context for the reader, implying that there has been a massive rise in pot smoking to overtake the use of cigarettes.

The big story is this: Daily cigarette smoking by young people is at its lowest recorded levels in history.

The reason why more college kids are smoking pot than cigarettes isn’t so much because pot smoking has increased but because cigarette smoking has plummeted. Since 2000, daily pot smoking by undergrads increased from 4.6 to 5.9 percent, a relative increase of 28.3 percent. But since 2000, daily cigarette smoking decreased from 17.6 to 5.2 percent, a relative decrease of 70.8 percent.

Furthermore, last December, Monitoring the Future put out its numbers for 8th, 10th and 12th graders. Their rates of daily cigarette smoking are also at historic lows—1.4, 3.2 and 6.7 percent, respectively. Those figures are down by 81.1, 77.1 and 67.5 percent, respectively, since 2000. In other words, compared to the year 2000, 4-out-of-5 8th graders; 3-out-of-4 10th graders; and 2-out-of-3 12th graders who were smoking cigarettes daily are not smoking now.

You’d think that would be a headline somewhere, especially considering the dependence rate for tobacco smoking, according to National Institute on Drug Abuse, is about 1-out-of-3 who tries it. Somehow, we managed to go from 1-out-of-5 high school seniors smoking cigarettes daily to about 1-out-of-15, without ticketing, fining, arresting, piss-testing or jailing any adult who smokes cigarettes!

Best of all, unlike the voting-age college kids, daily use of marijuana among the minor teens is lower now than it was in 2000—down 23.1 percent for 8th graders, down 10.5 percent for 10th graders and down 3.3 percent for 12th graders.

Remember how marijuana legalization for medical and personal purposes was supposed to “send the wrong message” to the children? It looks like the children have listened, and what they heard was “the time for smoking pot is in college.”

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