For First Time, College Marijuana Use Beats Cigarette Smoking


According to a recent study, almost 6% of college students in the United States smoke marijuana on a daily basis or a near-daily basis as of 2014.

The Monitoring the Future survey conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan found that more students are smoking pot each day than are smoking cigarettes.  One in 17 students, or 5.9% of participants, said they used the drug 20 or more times in the last 30 days.  This is the highest percentage since the survey began in 1980.

“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.”

The report went on to say that students are less likely to see the drug as dangerous than they had in previous years.  While 55% of high school graduates between the age of 19 and 22 saw regular marijuana use to be dangerous in 2006, only 35% reported that sentiment in 2014.  However, the use of K-2, a synthetic marijuana, saw a decrease from 7.4% in 2011 to 0.9% in 2014.

Overall, illegal drug use over the last 12 months has gone down from 41% in 2013 to 39% this year, although cocaine use did see an increase from 2.7% in 2013 to 4.4% in 2014.  While Johnston said the increase was statistically significant, he added that there was not enough data yet to determine whether or not the drug was making a comeback on college campuses.

Meanwhile, daily cigarette use has seen a drop with only 5% of students saying they hold the habit compared with 19% in 1999.  However, smoking tobacco with a hookah has seen an increase, from 26% in 2013 to 33% in 2014.  This is the first time that regular marijuana use has seen a higher consumption rate than cigarette usage.

Drinking has also seen a decline, as 43% of students said they had gotten drunk within the last 30 days, down from 48% in 2006.  Slightly over one-third of students said they had drank heavily within the last two weeks.  Heavy drinking is considered to have had five or more drinks in a row.

According to Johnston, the findings suggest that participants have been listening to public health announcements concerning the dangers of cigarette usage.

The study began in 1980 and has surveyed full-time college students each year for the last 35 years.  The number of participants have ranged annually between 1,000 and 1,500 students.