The NIDA Blog Team
November 17 2014

Do you know how long it took for tobacco smoking rates to significantly drop after researchers first linked smoking cigarettes to cancer? 40 years.

In the 1920s, when the link to cancer was discovered, smoking was normal---in fact, ads for cigarettes even featured doctors saying it relieved stress! For years, people smoked in their homes and offices, in restaurants and stores, on planes and on trains. Wherever they went…they smoked.

Changing habits

In 1957, the nation’s top doctor—the U.S. Surgeon General—warned that cigarette smoking could cause lung cancer. Other government doctors began to speak out. Still, people continued to smoke.

Over time, laws to protect the public’s health limiting where people could smoke, increases in the cost of cigarettes, and the growing body of evidence that smoking was directly linked to lung cancer helped lead turn the tide. Now, it’s surprising to find people smoking indoors; it’s the norm for people to have to go outside.

Weed and the teen brain

Today, it's marijuana that people, especially younger people, are beginning to view as "okay" or "less dangerous" or "normal." It reminds us of tobacco nearly 100 years ago—and not in a good way.

A big difference, though, is for teens—we already know that for them, using marijuana comes with some serious risks. Evidence is strong that smoking marijuana on a regular basis can harm the developing teen brain. And long-term, regular use of marijuana starting in the teen years can impair brain development and lower IQ. In other words, the brain may not reach its full potential. 

Perception vs. reality

As more and more states legalize marijuana for adults, it will likely be easier to get (even for teens), and there’s a chance that the number of people who use it will increase. For teens, this could have real and lasting effects. The question is, how long will it take before perception catches up to reality? 

Scholastic shares the facts surrounding the great marijuana debate with its recent article, "Marijuana: Breaking Down the Buzz."

Tell us in comments, is marijuana the next tobacco? Do these facts change your perception?

For additional facts about the brain and drugs, visit scholastic.com/headsup.

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