A recent study conducted by the Center for Disease Control found that more high school students are smoking marijuana than tobacco products.
"Teenagers tend to think marijuana use will not hurt them," said Byron Rogers, the community activities coordinator at Serenity House. "Students who think it won't harm them are more likely to try it."
The CDC study surveyed 15,000 high school teenagers to find out if they smoked marijuana in the last month. In 2011, 18% reported smoking the illegal substance, but this year that number jumped to 23%. Local drug prevention specialists attribute that to the new mindset of teens, the glamorous portrayal of the drug in the media, and lack of marijuana education.
"There's been less prevention education about marijuana use," Rogers said. "He explained that teens know the harms of smoking cigarettes but not as much about marijuana."
"We always hear that it's natural so it can't be bad for us,'" said Lekeshia White, the tobacco coordinator at ARCADA. "But in fact it is, because smoking like one marijuana joint is almost equivalent to 25 commercial cigarettes."
White also said the potency of marijuana has nearly doubled since 1975.
White and Rogers both said there are signs that parents should look out for to know if their child is smoking. Parents will observe a rapid change in friends and in the child's attitude. The teen may also be very secretive and develop a lack of motivation and respect for authority. These are especially things to monitor during the summertime according to Rogers.
"When teenagers don't have anything to be involved in, then curiosity tends to peak," he said. "Students that aren't involved in anything in the summer have a higher risk of falling into delinquent behaviors including drug use."
Both local drug specialists agreed that having an open relationship with the child is the key to prevention. Parents need to be informed about drugs, the street names for them, and the effects to be able to communicate that to their children.