NYC Health Department warns of increased marijuana use among children

Less than two months after the state legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older, the New York City Department of Health has reportedly warned doctors about a concerning increase of youths smoking pot. 

In an email obtained by the New York Post to city public health officials, DOH Chief Medical Officer Michelle Morse warned almost 1 in 5 students admit to smoking weed — a trend closely followed by e-cigarettes.

"A lot of them have shifted over to weed, just smoking pot," Dr. Cathy Ward, a pediatrician with Big Apple Pediatrics said. "And a lot of them were smoking e-cigarettes and hookah and Juul. I think its availability is been appealing to them. It's got the different flavors and it's being marketed to them. So I think that's why it's kind of all shifted." 

Ward said that doctors should take a proactive approach to have conversations about smoking with kids during routine check-ups.

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"It never hurts to say even to a 7-year-old or 10-year-old, like, hey, you know, smoking is bad for you. It makes your lungs dirty and makes your teeth and your breath stink. It makes your teeth yellow. So it's never too early to start," Ward said.

When children get older, Ward has another strategy.

"You can just flat out, ask them, hey, do your friends smoke? I always ask what their friends smoked first because if their friends do it's more likely that they are," Ward said. "But if they're like, oh no, I don't hang around kids that do that. Then they're much less likely to be smokers themselves."

Ward warns kids are especially vulnerable to nicotine dependence, which can happen even with occasional use. Nicotine may also affect the way the adolescent brain processes other drugs, such as alcohol, cannabis and cocaine.