[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 5-May-2013
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Contact: Susan Stevens Martin
ssmartin@aap.org
847-434-7131
American Academy of Pediatrics

Study adds to evidence that cigarettes are gateway to marijuana

Researchers also find that college students who use both tobacco and cannabis smoke more cigarettes per month than users of tobacco only

WASHINGTON, DC Teen smokers who rationalize their use of cigarettes by saying, "At least, I'm not doing drugs," may not always be able to use that line.

New research to be presented Sunday, May 5, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Washington, DC, supports the theory that cigarettes are a gateway drug to marijuana.

"Contrary to what we would expect, we also found that students who smoked both tobacco and marijuana were more likely to smoke more tobacco than those who smoked only tobacco," said study author Megan Moreno, MD, MSEd, MPH, FAAP, an investigator at Seattle Children's Research Institute and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington.

Dr. Moreno and her colleagues randomly selected incoming college students from two universities one in the Northwest and one in the Midwest to participate in the longitudinal study. Students were interviewed prior to entering college and again at the end of their freshman year regarding their attitudes, intentions and experiences with substances.

Specifically, students were asked if they had used tobacco or marijuana ever in their lives and in the past 28 days. Researchers also assessed the quantity and frequency of marijuana and tobacco use in the past 28 days.

Results showed that prior to entering college, 33 percent of the 315 participants reported lifetime tobacco use, and 43 percent of lifetime users were current users. In addition, tobacco users were more likely to have used marijuana than those who did not use tobacco.

By the end of their freshman year, 66 percent of participants who reported tobacco use prior to entering college remained current users with an average of 34 tobacco episodes per month. Of these, 53 percent reported concurrent marijuana use. Overall, users of both substances averaged significantly more tobacco episodes per month than current users of tobacco only (42 vs. 24).

"These findings are significant because in the past year we have seen legislation passed that legalizes marijuana in two states," Dr. Moreno said. "While the impact of these laws on marijuana use is a critical issue, our findings suggest that we should also consider whether increased marijuana use will impact tobacco use among older adolescents."

Future work should involve designing educational campaigns highlighting the increased risks of using these substances together, Dr. Moreno concluded.

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To schedule an interview with Dr. Moreno before or during the PAS meeting, contact Mary Guiden, public relations specialist at Seattle Children's Hospital, at 206-987-7334 or mary.guiden@seattlechildrens.org.

To view the abstract, "Trends in Tobacco and Marijuana Use among College Freshman," go to http://www.abstracts2view.com/pas/view.php?nu=PAS13L1_2195.5.

Funded by National Institutes of Health, the Common Fund, managed by the Office of Strategic Coordination, grant R01DA031580-03.

The Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) are four individual pediatric organizations that co-sponsor the PAS Annual Meeting the American Pediatric Society, the Society for Pediatric Research, the Academic Pediatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Members of these organizations are pediatricians and other health care providers who are practicing in the research, academic and clinical arenas. The four sponsoring organizations are leaders in the advancement of pediatric research and child advocacy within pediatrics, and all share a common mission of fostering the health and well-being of children worldwide. For more information, visit http://www.pas-meeting.org. Follow news of the PAS meeting on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PedAcadSoc.



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