CDC study: Teenagers smoke more marijuana than tobacco

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Teenagers are now smoking more marijuana than tobacco.

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, nearly 25 percent of teens now smoke marijuana, while cigarette smoking has dropped to the lowest level in more than 20 years to 15 percent. 

 Greg Lawson, a Jonesboro DARE officer, said marijuana has become the tobacco of this generation because of the push to legalize it. Lawson said marijuana is now easier than ever to buy, even more so than tobacco.

"I think that the kids may see it, 'Ok, since it's legalized, it's not going to hurt us,' which is not true," Lawson said.

Officer Lawson said marijuana smoke contains 50 to 70 percent more cancer-causing chemicals than tobacco smoke.

"The most dangerous, no question, is marijuana," Lawson said. "I think that's what people are not seeing right now."

Marijuana can also damage the upper respiratory system, lead to short-term memory loss and affect depth perception.

 "It affects your ability to judge distance, speed and reaction time," Lawson said. "So if you smoke marijuana and you get in a vehicle and drive, that's not a good thing. Plus, you can be charged with DWI just like you can with alcohol."

 Officer Lawson also calls marijuana a gateway drug.

 "After you smoke it for so long, you're going to have to either smoke more or move on to something else to get same feeling as the very first time you used marijuana," Lawson said.

 This concerns one Region 8 mom. 

 "I wouldn't want my kids to smoke marijuana," Kellye Woodham said. 

 Woodham is a mother of three teenagers and personally knows former, longtime marijuana smokers.

"They don't seem to be quite right after they quit using," Woodham said. 

Officer Lawson encourages parents to talk to their kids about marijuana and other harmful drugs. Woodham is one step ahead of him.

"We have started discussing drugs with our children when they were around eight, telling them what could happen and the damage that drugs can do to them," Woodham said. 

Officer Lawson said the DARE curriculum emphasized the harmful effects of marijuana, but when the push for legalizing marijuana began, that lesson was removed.

"However, we still do talk about it," Lawson said. "Some of the kids used to be shocked when you were talking about marijuana. It's not that way any more and to me, that's kind of sad. It's just the way the world is I guess."

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