According to a nationally representative survey of substance use in college students dubbed Monitoring the Future, it seems the future is pot. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that regular marijuana use (defined as daily or near daily) was reported by 5.9 percent of college students in 2014, outpacing regular cigarette smoking (5 percent) for the first time since the study began in 1980. That’s a big shift from 1999 when nearly 20 percent of students considered themselves regular smokers. Occasional pot use — that is, toking at least once in the last 30 days — has also increased, from 17 percent in 2006 to 21 percent last year. (Occasional smoking fell slightly in the past year to 13 percent, though separate research found that “light” cigarette use is on the rise in young women.)
The researchers say changing attitudes about marijuana are probably at play here. Only 35 percent of high-school graduates surveyed think regular pot use is dangerous, down from 55 percent in 2006. Makes sense, as cigarettes continue to be rightfully bashed and more states loosen their marijuana laws. Tobacco use via different delivery systems like hookahs and e-cigarettes was measured separately; hookah use in the past year was up and e-cig use in the past 30 days was unchanged.
The researchers also noted an increase in the use of alcohol and illicit drugs like ecstasy and amphetamines without a prescription. But they offered some “welcome news for parents”: College kids were less likely to use narcotic drugs, hallucinogens like LSD, or synthetic marijuana. Cheer up, parents, it’s only pot!