Perceptions of social norms and exposure to pro-marijuana messages are associated with adolescent marijuana use

Maria L Roditis, Kevin Delucchi, Audrey Chang, Bonnie Halpern-Felsher
Preventive Medicine 2016, 93: 171-176
Despite consistent declines in rates of cigarette use among adolescents in the last five years, rates of marijuana use have remained constant, with marijuana being the most widely used illegal drug among adolescents. More work is needed to understand how social norms, perceived risks and benefits, and social media messaging impact use of marijuana. This study compared perceptions and social norms related to marijuana, blunts and cigarettes. Additionally, we assessed how perceptions related to social norms, risks and benefits, and exposure to pro- versus anti-marijuana messaging is related to use. Participants were 786 adolescents from Southern and Northern California (36.7% male, 63.21% females; mean age=16.1years; SD=1.6). Participants came from diverse ethnic backgrounds, with 207 (26.61%) White, 171 (21.98%) Asian/Pacific Islander, 232 (29.82%) Hispanic, and 168 (21.59%) other. Results indicated that marijuana and blunts were consistently perceived as more socially acceptable and less risky than cigarettes (p<0.01). Participants who reported that their friends used marijuana had a 27% greater odds of using marijuana themselves. Further, seeing messages about the good things or benefits of marijuana use was associated with a 6% greater odds of use [OR 1.06 (CI 1.00, 1.12)]. This study's findings offer a number of important public health implications, particularly as states move towards legalization of marijuana for recreational use. As this occurs, states need to take adolescents' perceptions of risks, benefits, social norms, and peer influences into account as they implement strategies to reduce youth use of marijuana and blunts.

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