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Why it matters that more college students now smoke pot than cigarettes.

Higher education has been getting a whole lot higher lately.

Why it matters that more college students now smoke pot than cigarettes.

In case you've missed the memo, cigarettes have lost their luster lately — especially to those crazy college kids.

Just this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that a historically low percentage of American adults — a mere 15.2% — are choosing to light up on a regular basis.

That's great! Although, not very surprising. Cigarette use by Americans has been dwindling for several years now. And that includes for college students.


Photo via iStock.

But not all smoking is falling by the wayside for millennials obtaining a higher education (if you get my drift). New research found that marijuana is actually more popular now among college students than it has been throughout the past three decades.

For the first time, more college students report smoking pot than cigarettes.

The University of Michigan's newly released Monitoring the Future study found that, in 2014, only 5% of college students said they smoked cigarettes daily — down from 19% in 1999.

Lloyd Johnston, a lead researcher on the study, said the drop is "particularly good news," seeing as these same students had fewer rates of cigarette smoking while they were still in high school. So their smoke-free (or nearly smoke-free) habits apparently had staying power.

Photo via iStock

Here's where it gets interesting. A higher percentage of college students — 5.9% — reported smoking marijuana either on a daily or near-daily basis (which was defined as on at least 20 of the past 30 days for the study).

That 0.9% difference is a big one. It marks the first time daily weed-smoking habits surpassed daily cigarette-smoking habits for college students, the study concluded.

This historic report should encourage us to review some of our drug policies. Because, let's face it, they need some updating.

Here are the facts.

Smoking cigarettes:

  • Legal across the board (for adults).
  • Terrible for you. Like "the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States" terrible. As in, responsible for more than 480,000 deaths in the U.S. every year terrible.

Smoking weed:

  • Illegal for recreational purposes in nearly all U.S. states and for medicinal purposes in 27.
  • Terrible for you? Well, certainly not good for you. But it depends. Some research suggests smoking pot may negatively interfere with areas of the brain that regulate emotions and anxiety. But a notable 20-year study published in 2012 found that — while smoking cigarettes harms your lungs (without a doubt) — occasionally smoking marijuana does not. And when it comes to treating various health ailments, many doctors agree — medicinal marijuana works. So, as researchers have said, more data is needed to be certain of the negative longterm affects of smoking pot on our bodies.

Shouldn't facts like these affect our policies on marijuana? I mean, if just as many (if not more) young people prefer weed over cigarettes, shouldn't legal weed be on the table as a viable option? Legalizing and regulating pot may actually help in keeping it out of the hands of children, after all, and legal weed may help reduce our expensive and overpopulated prison system without sacrificing public safety.

The good news is, more Americans are recognizing these realities. As Gallup found in November 2014, a slim majority of Americans now support legalizing weed — up dramatically from a decade prior, when that figure stood at just 34%.

If America's acceptance of weed is changing — on and off college campuses — maybe it's time Washington takes note.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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