Whatever You Say
A new study from University of Toronto public health researchers finds that middle school and high school students who smoke only marijuana do better in school than their peers who smoke tobacco. The study, in the Journal of School Health, isn't a small one, either — lead author Michael Chaiton and his team examined 30 years of data involving about 39,000 Ontario 7th, 9th, and 11th graders who participated in surveys from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
What the study doesn't conclude, though, is that marijuana is better for you than tobacco or even makes you a better student. First of all, 92 percent of tobacco users in the study also smoke weed (while only 25 percent of marijuana tokers also smoke tobacco). Marijuana-only users' academic performance is "relatively better" than that of tobacco and tobacco/pot smokers, explains Chaiton, because the students who still smoke cigarettes these days come from "a fairly marginalized population, quite a vulnerable population."
Basically, tobacco has fallen out of vogue in schools, he adds. "Social norms have changed and the population of people who use marijuana are more like the general population." That's mildly good news for pot enthusiasts, since it suggests weed is now considered normal and tobacco deviant. But it doesn't mean students should feel good about waking-and-baking on school days. Or, probably, ever. Tobacco and marijuana are "similar drugs in many different ways," Chaiton says. "People dramatically underestimate the risks associated with cannabis use, particularly among youth."