ANN ARBOR (WWJ) - For the first time in decades, marijuana use is more popular than smoking cigarettes among kids on college campuses across the United States.
Researchers at the University of Michigan say a series of national surveys indicate that college students prefer smoking weed daily to lighting up tobacco regularly.
Daily or near-daily marijuana use was reported by 5.9 percent of college students in 2014 -- the highest rate since 1980, the first year that complete data was available in the study. This rate of use is up from 3.5 percent in 2007. In other words, one in every 17 college students is smoking marijuana on a daily or near-daily basis, defined as use on 20 or more occasions in the prior 30 days.
Other measures of marijuana use have also shown an increase: The percent of students using marijuana once or more in the prior 30 days rose from 17 percent in 2006 to 21 percent in 2014. Use in the prior 12 months also rose from 30 percent in 2006 to 34 percent in 2014.
"It's clear that for the past seven or eight years there has been an increase in marijuana use among the nation's college students," Lloyd Johnston, the principal investigator of the study, said in a statement. "And this largely parallels an increase we have been seeing among high school seniors."
Much of this increase may be due to the with a change in attitudes toward the semi-legal drug. For example, while 55 percent of kids ages 19-to-22-year-old saw regular marijuana use as dangerous in 2006, only 35 percent saw it as dangerous by 2014.
Cigarette smoking continued to decline among the nation's college students in 2014, when 13 percent said they had smoked one or more cigarettes in the prior 30 days, down from 14 percent in 2013 and from the recent high of 31 percent in 1999 -- a decline of more than half. As for daily smoking, only 5 percent indicated smoking at that level, compared with 19 percent in 1999 -- a drop of nearly three fourths in the number of college students smoking daily.
"These declines in smoking at college are largely the result of fewer of these students smoking when they were still in high school," Johnston said. "Nevertheless, it is particularly good news that their smoking rates have fallen so substantially."
However, the declines in cigarette smoking have been accompanied by some increases in the use of other forms of tobacco or nicotine. Smoking tobacco using a hookah (a type of water pipe) in the prior 12 months rose substantially among college students, from 26 percent in 2013 to 33 percent in 2014.
In 2014, the use of e-cigarettes in the past 30 days stood at 9.7 percent, while use of flavored little cigars stood at 9.8 percent, of regular little cigars at 8.6 percent and of large cigars at 8.4 percent.
Johnston said there is still some welcome news for parents as they send their children off to college this fall.
"Perhaps the most important is that five out of every 10 college students have not used any illicit drug in the past year, and more than three quarters have not used any in the prior month," he said.
These and other results about drug use come from Monitoring the Future, an annual survey that has been reporting on U.S. college students' substance use of all kinds for 35 years. The study began in 1980 and is conducted by the U-M Institute for Social Research with funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one of the National Institutes of Health.
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