• woman smoking marijuana

woman smoking marijuana (Photo : Reuters )

The United States' college students are choosing marijuana joints over cigarette sticks for their smoking habit, according to a new study. Undergraduates are passing up the tobacco products due to public health warnings, and choosing pot because they perceive it as being low-risk or harmless.

The annual "Monitoring the Future" study was released on September 1, Tuesday. It included volunteers from the University of Michigan.

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A little under 6 percent of the school's full-time students reported that they smoked cannabis either daily or 20 or more time during the last 30 days. The figure was just 5 percent among heavy cigarette smokers, plummeting from 1999 statistics. It was 19 percent then.

The number of regular weed smokers is the highest it has been during the past 35 years, according to Reuters. In 1980 the yearly smoking study was begun.

Lloyd Johnston was the lead researcher. He explained that based on his team's findings, people in their late teens and early 20s want to avoid the negative health effects of smoking cigarettes. However, they think that lighting up pot causes few or no health risks.    

Johnston explained that marijuana use has increased among U.S. college students during the past seven to eight years. The rate increase has been about the same among senior students in high school.

Last year's annual survey was the first time habitual pot use was higher than regular cigarette smoking.

Hemp was used by 21 percent of the pupils during the last month. Meanwhile, 34 percent had used it sometime during the past year, according to The New York Times.

Alcohol abuse also decreased among the Michigan students, with only 5 percent reporting they had done "extreme" binge drinking at least one time during the past two weeks.  Meanwhile, cocaine use during the previous year showed an uptick to 4.4 percent last year.

Johnston also revealed that half of the volunteers had not used any illegal drugs during the past year. That included heroin, ecstasy, and LSD.

Overall marijuana smoking rates are the highest in Alaska. Over 16 percent admitted to smoking a blunt during the past year.  Interestingly, it is the only state in which it is legal for all residents to have one ounce of cannabis in their homes.