U.S. teens’ cigarette use drops to a new low, but use of alcohol goes up a bit and more 12th graders are smoking marijuana

Teenagers’ cigarette smoking dropped to a record low this year but alcohol use rose slightly after seven years of decline, according to a survey of 45,000 eighth-, 10th- and 12th- graders for the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

The survey also found that the use of illicit drugs dropped slightly among eighth-graders but rose slightly among 12th-graders. Among them, 36.4 percent reported using marijuana in the past year, up from 34.8 percent in 2010, and the share who saw great risk in smoking marijuana occasionally dropped significantly, to 20.6 percent, from 24.5 percent in 2010.

Among all three age groups, only 10.6 percent said they had smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days, down from 11.7 percent in 2010. The University of Michigan researchers who did the survey said the decline was significant, and may have been driven by a big increase in the federal tobacco tax in 2009.

“A 1-percentage-point decline may not sound like a lot,
but it represents about a 9 percent reduction in a single year
in the number of teens currently smoking,” principal researcher Lloyd Johnston said in a news release. Among eighth-graders, the decline was about 20 percent. For other results of the survey, click here; for a PDF version, here. For the full survey report, go here.

“Teen attitudes toward smoking also continued to become more
negative. For example, 80 percent of teens said they preferred
to date nonsmokers in 2012,” Steve Gorman reports for Reuters. “But anti-tobacco advocates said their battle to stamp out
teen smoking was far from over, noting that 17 percent of high
school seniors still graduate as smokers.” And the figure is higher in many rural areas.

Kentucky ranks at or near the top in youth smoking. In 2010, the last year for which state figures are available, 16 percent of Kentucky children aged 12 to 17 (a slightly younger group than the one above) reported smoking a cigarette in the past month. The national rate for that age group was 10 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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