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

Higher education has been getting a whole lot higher lately.

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.

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I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

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What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

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