MAR 14, 2024 6:23 PM PDT

Cannabis, Tobacco Linked to Lower Grades, More Absenteeism in High Schoolers

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

High school students who use tobacco and cannabis products report more absences from school and have lower grades than peers who use neither product or who use them individually. The corresponding study was published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from 287, 653 high school students in the ninth and 11th grades from the 2021- 22 California Healthy Kids Survey. They then compared their responses for cannabis use with self-reported educational outcomes: absenteeism and grades. 

Altogether, 3.7% of high school students reported using tobacco and cannabis together, 3.7% cannabis only, and 1.7% tobacco only. After analyzing the data, the researchers found that students who used tobacco and cannabis together missed an average of three days of school in the past month, compared to approximately 1.5 days missed by peers who didn’t use both products. 

Meanwhile, they found that students who used both cannabis and tobacco tended to achieve mostly B and C grades at school, whereas those who used neither substance received mostly B’s. Students who used either cannabis or tobacco also had slightly lower grades than nonusers. 

“Substance use is a main predictor of educational outcomes, including absenteeism,” said first author of the paper, Melanie Dove M.P.H, Sc.D., an assistant adjunct professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of California Davis, in a press release, “These results highlight the need for comprehensive efforts to prevent and reduce substance use from both cannabis and tobacco products among youth.”

The researchers noted that their study has limitations. As their data was based on self-reported responses, they noted that students may not have felt comfortable sharing their actual substance use or abuse patterns, and that they may thus be underreported. They added that California high school students tend to report significantly less use of tobacco than the national average, which may reflect the state’s rigorous anti-smoking campaigns and adoption of non-smoking public places. 

“While certain school factors- like peer pressure- can contribute to teen tobacco and cannabis use, schools also play a critical role in prevention, especially in partnership with families,” said senior author of the paper, Dr. Kevin Gee, a professor at the UC Davis School of Education, in a press release

“One important tool available to California’s schools is the Tobacco Use Prevention Education program that, when strategically invested in intervention and cessation activities, has shown promise in reducing tobacco use among teens," he concluded. 


Sources: EurekAlertThe Journal of Pediatrics

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets.
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