It is a pretty sad state of affairs that teenagers in the US now have the perception that smoking marijuana is safer than smoking tobacco when, in fact, neither is safe. A Denver Post article, “Teens’ marijuana use increases; fewer see it as dangerous drug”, by John Ingold, states “While teen tobacco smoking has declined over the past 10 Years, marijuana use is as high as it has been since the early part of the decade.” “Nationwide, 21.4 percent of 12th-graders, 16.7 percent of 10th-graders, and 8 percent of 8th-graders reported having used marijuana in the past 30 days. Each of those figures was higher than the number who reported smoking cigarettes in the past 30 days – 19.2 percent, 13.6 percent, and 7.1 percent, respectively.”
What could possibly make teens think smoking marijuana is safe, especially since they got the message about tobacco and we’ve seen its’ use in a 10 year decline? Could it possibly be that our capital city, Denver, voted to legalize marijuana; that more medical marijuana shops are open in Denver than Starbucks; that it was a narrowly defeated ballot measure in the last California election; or the hype surrounding the largest Cannabis Convention in the US currently going on in Denver hemp oil cancer treatment?
We have certainly done a disservice to our teens, since both tobacco and marijuana have many of the same ill effects. “The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that marijuana smokers experience respiratory disturbances similar to tobacco smokers, including coughs and lung infections. Also like tobacco, marijuana may increase the risk of heart attack due to its ability to raise blood pressure and heart rate.” “Marijuana contains 50 to 70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke…” Marijuana advocates can argue all they want that they don’t smoke as much as cigarette smokers, but that is a pointless defense – neither is safe.
Let’s also address the current debate in the Colorado Legislature regarding the legal limit of THC (the primary drug in marijuana) for operating a motor vehicle, where the legal and medical communities state the effects are similar to alcohol. The experts tell us there are psychological effects on the teen developing brain, including these short-term effects: learning and memory problems, trouble with problem solving, distorted perception, and loss of motor coordination. Surely marijuana use has a negative impact on teen education, most likely leading to fewer kids going on to college, fewer getting good jobs, and so on.
I have no problem with medical marijuana use, to ease the pain and suffering of patients with medical needs. But we have just done a huge disservice to our youth by all of the press and hype by well-intending adults (sic) to get pot on the election ballots, to open medical marijuana shops for profit, to promote a convention, and who knows what else.
It took decades and millions of dollars to turn the tide on tobacco use. It now appears we need to start down that path with marijuana because of the damage already done. One out of five of our high school seniors are regular (in past 30 days) users. None of us want to be on the “highway” with one of them behind the wheel – and in the tough job market, these kids will be left behind causing untold social problems for our communities in the years to come.