Don’t let the billboards fool you. One in nine local teens smoke pot. 

Regional advertising campaign relies on outdated statistics

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FRIDAY, Sept. 16 — A regional advertising campaign from two local health departments proudly declares that only “1 in 14 teenagers say they used marijuana in the past month.” Billboards advertising the statistic as “Weed Fact #6” are plastered on billboards across Greater Lansing.

A few big issues: That statistic is inaccurate, outdated and cannabis consumption is on the rise.

According to the National Institutes on Health, it’s true that about one in 14 teens said they used marijuana in the past month. But that was in 2016, more than two years before cannabis was legalized for recreational use in Michigan, pushing teen use even higher locally and abroad.

The latest data from the Michigan School Health Survey System tells a much different story.

The state-funded poll from the 2019-20 school year had asked 6,328 seventh, ninth and twelfth grade students at a dozen local school districts in Ingham and Eaton counties to volunteer whether or not they’ve consumed cannabis within the last 30 days. A total of 687 students surveyed said they had smoked pot in the last month. That’s about one in nine students; not one in 14, as advertised.

And those rates climbed even higher as kids transitioned to high school. About one in every ten freshmen said they recently got high. It was about one in five for seniors.

“Unfortunately, in our area, it seems the rate is even higher. This means that more students are using marijuana than what we even shared,” said Anne Barna, a department director for the Barry-Eaton District Health Department, which partnered with Ingham County on the campaign.

The “Weed Facts'' campaign began locally in 2019 and is funded annually through a $17,500 Medical Marihuana Operation and Oversight grant through the state department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Officials said the advertisements are designed to encourage safe storage of cannabis and discourage people from driving while under the influence of marijana. It also serves to educate people on risks associated with cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding and discourage teen use altogether because it’s illegal for those under age 21.

A federally-funded study led by researchers at the University of Michigan released in June also found that a steady 23% of Michigan high school students had used marijuana in the past 30 days, compared to 20% during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Monitoring the Future panel study released last year also showed that marijuana use continued to rise among college students over the prior five years too, hitting historically high levels among same-aged peers who did not attend college in 2020 — the highest levels of consumption recorded since the 80s.

As for the irony of using peer pressure tactics to instead discourage kids from smoking weed? Specialists at the Ingham County Health Department prefer the term “Social Norms Approach” which focuses on “positive” messages rather than stigmas surrounding shared commonalities.

What percentage of students say they have consumed cannabis in the last 30 days?

Ingham County

7th Grade — 4.1%

9th Grade — 10.6%

11th Grade — 18.2%

Total — 10.4%

Eaton County

7th Grade — 3.8%

9th Grade — 11.8%

11th Grade — 22.6%

Total — 11.7%

Source: 2019-20 Michigan School Health Survey System

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