Research presented at the May 5 session of the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Washington, D.C., addressed the theory that cigarettes may be a gateway drug to marijuana use.
Study author, Dr. Megan Moreno, MSEd, MPH, FAAP – an investigator at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington – and her colleagues pursued the hypothesis.
Incoming college students at two universities – one in the Northwest and another in the Midwest – were randomly selected to participate in the longitudinal study. A longitudinal study, classified as an observational study method, is a correlational research study that involves repeated observations of the same variables over long periods of time.
The 315 students were interviewed before they began their freshman year, and again at the end. They were asked questions regarding their attitudes and thoughts, interactions and experiences with substances like tobacco and marijuana – more specifically if they’d used either in their life leading up to that point and if they’d used either in the last 28 days. The quality and frequency of each was measured.
According to Science 2.0, the results revealed that prior to entering their freshman year, 33 percent reported a previous use of tobacco and 43 percent were current smokers. Of those who reported previous tobacco use, 66 percent of them continued with the habit throughout their freshman year.
Tobacco users were found to be statistically more prone to use marijuana than non-smokers, as 53 percent of them reported a concurrent use of marijuana. Also, college students who used both tobacco and cannabis smoked more cigarettes per month than users of tobacco only.
Funding for the research was provided by National Institutes of Health, the Common Fund, managed by the Office of Strategic Coordination, grant R01DA031580-03.
A separate study performed by the University of Alabama stated six percent of entering freshman arrive as smokers and by the time they graduate 16 percent of students carry away a tobacco habit with their diploma. These stats vary by region, but it shows a growing trend of young individuals succumbing to the temptation of tobacco use – thus in turn, likely trying marijuana.
In an effort to prevent some students from picking the habit up upon coming to college, schools have instituted tobacco-free and smoke-free campus policies and housing.
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