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It may come as no surprise that LA teens have been smoking a lot of weed. So much so that the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health released a report on underage marijuana use. In response to these findings, the County and a group of anti-smoking teens have released a rap video campaign. Here’s a look at the “Bigger Choices” videos that have been getting a lot of attention.

Everyone in LA is Blazing, Including the Underaged

LA is the biggest recreational weed market in the world. With all the buzz following legalization earlier this year, and increased weed accessibility, Los Angeles County is struggling with underage smoking rates.

A report released by the LACDPH confirmed as much. According to CBS Los Angeles, 26 percent of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 reported using marijuana at least once. Of these kids, about half admitted that they went to class high.

The report also looked at the situations in which kids are using marijuana, Specifically, almost 3/4 of teens smoked weed with friends.

Reporters have turned to high school students for comment on these findings. Many seem to agree that marijuana use is omnipresent. One of them explains to CBS, “I would see marijuana, like blunt wraps on the floor, on the bleachers, and people would smell it in the restroom.”

Another one told an extreme story about a weed smoker turned thief. “He started smoking marijuana a lot,” she said, “and then he stopped showing up to class, and now he, like, robbed a store to support his habit.”

“Bigger Choices” Hopes to Discourage Underage Marijuana Use

Galvanized by this report, the LA County recruited a diverse group of teens to talk about weed. They’ve posted these videos on social media with #BiggerChoices.

In both iterations, stylish teenagers attend a party at which they discuss the pros and cons of smoking marijuana. First, we hear from the pot smokers, who site peer pressure, loneliness, and stress. “But everyone is sparking up, and girls will think I’m fly,” one teenager says, accepting a joint from a friend. Another one comments, “I’m stressed. When I light up, it helps me stay focused.”

A group of angelic-looking teens then approaches to explain why these aren’t reasons to smoke weed. Overall, the message is that weed is illegal for the underage, not to mention it’s bad for growing brains and your bank account.

In an official press release, LA Country Supervisor Kathryn Barger praises the teens who chose to star in the video. “I’m inspired by these young leaders who have taken the initiative media to express to their peers just how important it is to avoid marijuana and make bigger and better decisions for their health and their future,” she says.

The Science Behind The Video

“Bigger Choices,” and the larger initiative to reduce underage smoking, is based on research maintaining that underage smoking is bad for developing brains. Though an increasing number of researchers have dedicated time and resources to this topic, health care officials have yet to reach a consensus.

Last month, a large-scale study published by JAMA Psychiatry claimed that marijuana has less of an effect on developing brains than previously thought. Specifically, the study found that marijuana affects memory and processing capabilities are only temporarily affected. On average, the teens and young adults surveyed only manifested signs of marijuana impairment for 72 hours.

Not all findings are so promising. Other studies suggest that marijuana can lower IQ, lead to psychiatric disorders, and inhibit brain development.

Whether or not marijuana’s effects are long or short term, the “Bigger Choices” campaign hopes to reduce smoking, especially for kids in school. “You can’t use your brains if you’re always getting high,” the chorus of teenagers chimes in.

Will Anti-Weed Rap Reduce Marijuana Use?

“Bigger Choices” is the latest in a long tradition of anti-weed campaigns. But maybe the LADPH’s use of young actors and rap will have a broader appeal than more stale advertisements. Officials are expecting to reach approximately 30 million people by the time the campaign ends.

In any case, these videos highlight that health officials are worried about marijuana’s effects, and not everyone is thrilled with Californians legalization. And this is only the first step in the Department of Public Health’s initiative. Next, iHeart Media will air ten discussions on the effects of marijuana on young people.

Burgess Powell is a writer for High Times based in New York. She writes about marijuana news, culture, and health.

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