Pubdate: Fri, 12 May 2017
Source: Barrie Examiner (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017, Barrie Examiner
Author: Andrew Philips
Page: A1


Mary Jane appears to be overtaking the Marlboro Man as the plant of
choice among high-school students.

"We all know about the problems with cigarettes," said Brayden, a
17-year-old local high-school student. "They're bad for your health,
but the long-term effects of marijuana are way better."

A new study by the University of Waterloo's Propel Centre for
Population Health Impact suggests cannabis has replaced cigarettes as
the inhalation product of choice among students in grades 7 to 12.

The study determined that 2% of Canadian students in grades 7 to 12 -
equivalent to more than 43,000 students nationwide - use marijuana
every day. Daily smoking is similar at 1.8%, according to the Canadian
Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey. Occasional cannabis use
remains high among youth, with one in five students reportedly trying
it and one in 10 saying they've used it in the last 30 days.

"Although Canadian youth are less likely to try marijuana than they
were a decade ago, the number using on a daily basis is surprisingly
high," said David Hammond, a professor in the School of Public Health
and Health Systems at Waterloo and co-author of the supplement.

Brayden's friends differed on how many youth actually smoke pot with
Dakota, 17, saying about half of his school's student population
partake while Austin, 17, felt the percentage is likely closer to a
quarter. "With pot, you get a better head rush than you do with
cigarettes," Dakota said, noting that parties usually have an almost
even split nowadays between alcohol and pot use. "Most kids do it
(smoke pot)."

While that's debatable, the study's findings seem jibe with what the
the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has determined.

"We've seen a comparable rise in marijuana use in youth," said Doug
Ironside, a public health nurse (injury and substance misuse
prevention) with the agency's community and family health department.

"Our figures mirror the Waterloo study," he added.

According to Ironside, about one-third of high-school students in the
region report using pot once in the past calendar year with one in 10
reporting weekly use.

"Everyday use is a really high-risk behaviour," he said. "Regular,
ongoing use is particularly harmful to youth."

Ironside, who noted the health unit recognizes that many youth are
going to experiment with alcohol and cannabis, said regular marijuana
use impairs brain development in youth since the brain (especially the
pre-frontal cortex) continues to grow and mature until one reaches 25
years old.

According to Ironside, while many youth perceive cannabis to be
harmless, natural and not likely to result in dependence, these are
misconceptions since marijuana or anything else that can be used as a
coping mechanism, stress reliever or escape has the potential to
become addictive.

"It can impair reasoning, impair judgment and make school very
challenging," Ironside said, adding marijuana is also harmful to the
lungs, causing many of the same problems that tobacco smoke does,
including cough, bronchitis and heightened risk of cancer.

Teen cigarette smoking, meanwhile, is down in not only the health
unit's catchment area, but also across the province.

"We're continuing to make inroads in that regard," Ironside said,
adding the same can't be said for marijuana use, especially given the
federal government's plan to make it legal next year.

"We know from research that increased access leads to increased use,
so there is a potential for increased use and increased harm," he
added. "It's going to create a litany of other public health issues to

Patterns of co-using tobacco and cannabis have changed dramatically
over the past 20 years, according to the Waterloo report, which noted
that 92% of tobacco users reported also using cannabis compared to 16%
in 1991.

"This clustering of marijuana and tobacco use is a concern," Hammond
said. "It is a myth that marijuana smoke is less harmful to inhale
than tobacco smoke.

"Marijuana smoke contains many of the same carcinogens as cigarette
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