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Teens Choosing Marijuana Over Tobacco

By Modupe Idowu
By midowu@wbbjtv.com

A recent CDC study found when it comes to smoking, more teens are choosing marijuana over cigarettes. Local drug addiction counselors told 7 Eyewitness News the new study worries them because majority of drug users start in their teens.

Rick Lutrell has been counseling drug addicts at the Aspell Treatment Center for 15 years. His office is decked out in Cardinals memorabilia. His hobby is keeping up with sports, but that was not always the case.

Lutrell said, "By the Grace of God, I haven't had to use in a little over 19 years, since February of 1993."

He said he started smoking marijuana when he was 18-years-old. According to the new survey by the CDC, 23 percent of high school students have followed in his footsteps by recently admitting to smoking marijuana. Only 18 percent claim to have smoked cigarettes.

"I know I did I done it out of curiosity. I wanted to be part of a group of people," said Counselor Lutrell.

In addition to curiosity, Lutrell also said there is a lot of information about the consequences of tobacco use but not so much for marijuana.

Lutrell said, "You got a lot of people saying if you smoke cigarettes well, you are going to get lung cancer and you going [to] die, but if you smoke marijuana you ain"t gonna get no cancer."

While the popular drug may not be directly linked to cancer, Lutrell said it is a gateway drug which can lead to more destructive behavior.

Officials said smoking can be an early sign that other drugs may be in the picture, a teen's diminished interest in hobbies or favorite activities, and extreme emotional mood swings are all things to look out for concerning drug abuse.