Canadian teens are slightly more likely to consume cannabis than they are to smoke cigarettes, a University of Waterloo study has found.
The report, conducted by the Propel Centre for Population Health at the University of Waterloo, revealed that two percent of Canadian students from Grade 7 to 12 smoke cannabis every day, while 1.8 percent smoke cigarettes every day.
The report also found that occasional cannabis use remains relatively high among Canadian youth, with one in five students reporting ever trying it and one in 10 reporting use in the last 30 days.
Study co-author David Hammond said these findings should inform the federal government as they prepare to legalize cannabis by July 1, 2018. He added that youth often imbibe under the belief that cannabis isn’t as dangerous as tobacco.
"It's a bit of a mind-bender for everyone to think that you'll be able to walk into a store and buy some marijuana, maybe it'll be a corner of the LCBO. So that's the concern: How do we do that in a way that doesn't make people feel it's more normal, it's more OK to use when you're a kid," said Hammond.
Canadian teens are less likely to try cannabis than they were a decade ago, notes Hammond, but the number of those using it daily is still higher than researchers anticipated. He said the numbers are particularly concerning because the potency of cannabis has changed in the last 40 years.
"Back in the 70s, when people remember smoking marijuana, it was about five per cent THC. Now it's triple, quadruple, five times that," Hammond said. "By legalizing it, you can actually regulate that market and maybe bend it a little bit more to minimize any excess risk."