Original Article

Marijuana Use in Middle and High School Students: Insights from the 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey

Authors: Sanjana Rao, BS, Christopher J. Peterson, MD, MS, Shengping Yang, PhD, Kenneth Nugent, MD


Objective: The use of marijuana by middle and high school students could have important consequences, including physical harm, poor decision making, increased use of tobacco products, and involvement in the legal system. Determining the level of use by students provides the initial information needed to understand the extent of the problem and possible approaches to reducing student use.

Methods: The National Youth Tobacco Surveys provide important information about the frequency of use of nicotine and tobacco products by a representative sample of students in schools in the United States. The 2020 survey included a question about the use of marijuana by survey respondents. The results from the survey were analyzed using descriptive statistics and logistic regression to model the association between the use of marijuana and the use of electronic or conventional cigarettes.

Results: The final survey from 2020 included 13,357 students, with 6537 male respondents and 6820 female respondents. Ages ranged from younger than 12 to 18 and older years; 961 students used both cigarettes and marijuana, and 1880 students used both electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and marijuana. The adjusted odds ratio for the use of marijuana increased in female students, in non-Hispanic Black students, Hispanic students, and all ages from 13 through 18 and older. The perception of harm associated with either e-cigarettes or cigarettes did not change the odds ratio for using marijuana. Students who did not smoke cigarettes or did not smoke e-cigarettes had significantly lower odds ratios for using marijuana.

Conclusions: The 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey indicates that approximately 18.4% of middle school and high school students have used marijuana. Parents, educators, public health officials, and policymakers need to understand that there is a relatively high use of marijuana among students and that education programs should focus on its use with or without other tobacco products.

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