The number of people in Spain who said they started using cannabis in 2013 outnumbered those who said they took up smoking cigarettes, revealed the latest annual health ministry study of drug use in Spain released on Tuesday. The report said that 169,000 Spaniards began using cannabis in 2013 compared to 142,000 who started to smoke tobacco.
More than one-third of new users, 61,000 or 36 percent, were between the ages of 15 to 17 years. Out of Spaniards aged 15 to 64 years, 9.2 percent said they had smoked cannabis within the last year, down from 9.6 percent in the previous study carried out in 2012. The number of cannabis users overall was slightly down but the number of people who use the drug on a daily basis has increased to 1.9 percent in 2013 from 1.7 percent in 2012.
Head of the government's National Drugs Plan, Francisco Babin, said in a statement, "The figures confirm the extension of the problematic pattern of consumption of this substance."
The study found that over 700,000 Spaniards between the ages of 15 and 64 meet the criteria for a diagnosis of a 'problem user' of this drug. Spain's proximity to Morocco, one of the world's principal producers of cannabis, has made it the main gateway into Europe for the drug, with Spanish authorities having seized more than 100 tonnes of hashish in various operations since June 2013.