Background Cannabis use is referenced frequently in American popular music, yet it remains uncertain whether exposure to these references is associated with actual cannabis use. We aimed to determine if exposure to cannabis in popular music is associated independently with current cannabis use in a cohort of urban adolescents.
Methods We surveyed all 9th grade students at three large US urban high schools. We estimated participants' exposure to lyrics referent to cannabis with overall music exposure and content analyses of their favorite artists' songs. Outcomes included current (past 30 days) and ever use of cannabis. We used multivariable regression to assess independent associations between exposures and outcomes while controlling for important covariates.
Results Each of the 959 participants was exposed to an estimated 27 cannabis references per day [correction added on 19 January 2010, after first online publication: 40 has been changed to 27] (standard deviation = 73 [correction added on 19 January 2010, after first online publication: 104 has been changed to 73]). Twelve per cent (n = 108) were current cannabis users and 32% (n = 286) had ever used cannabis. Compared with those in the lowest tertile of total cannabis exposure in music, those in the highest tertile of exposure were almost twice as likely to have used cannabis in the past 30 days (odds ratio = 1.83; 95% confidence interval = 1.04, 3.22), even after adjusting for socio-demographic variables, personality characteristics and parenting style. As expected, however, there was no significant relationship between our cannabis exposure variable and a sham outcome variable of alcohol use.
Conclusions This study supports an independent association between exposure to cannabis in popular music and early cannabis use among urban American adolescents.