Cigarette smoking has dropped sharply among American teenagers. Now, vaping and marijuana use are more common.
Teenagers in the U.S. are beginning to recognize the adverse effects of tobacco use — spurring a switch to healthier alternatives. According to a national survey of adolescent drug use, 22.9 percent of high school seniors say they used marijuana within the previous 30 days and 16.6 percent used a vape pen. This is compared to only 9.7 percent of seniors who had smoked cigarettes.
The survey polled 43,703 students from grades 8-12 in public and private schools nationwide. Some concern was raised over the popularity of vapes, as they are easily accessible and appeal to a wide demographic of teens. But overall feelings were positive, as the study found that teenagers consumption of most substances (alcohol, tobacco, prescription opioids, and stimulants) had either fallen or held steady. In fact, these are the lowest rates in 20 years.
“We Were impressed by the improvement in substance use by all teenagers,”
said Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director of the institute conducting the study. Dr. Compton says the drop in cigarette use can be attributed to many factors. Anti-smoking campaigns, higher cigarette prices, and reverse peer pressure are all ways the rates may have been impacted. In addition, students in all grade level report viewing cigarettes as a serious health risk. Dropping rates in alcohol use can also be linked to similar factors. Students are becoming more conscious of their choices, especially with every action holding the potential of making it all over social media.
Marijuana Perceptions Have Shifted
In contrast, marijuana receives a different treatment from young students. The report states that only 14.1 percent of 12th graders say they saw a “great risk” from smoking marijuana occasionally. The same question was asked in 1991, and a staggering 40.6 percent of seniors held the view. Allison Kilcoyne, the director of a health care center, says that persuading students about marijuana risk is “tricky,” and that they perceive no negative effects. She states,
“I talk about the impact on their developing brain and the risk of learning to smoke marijuana as a coping mechanism. But the problem is that for them, it works. They’re feeling immediate relief of whatever symptoms they have. They’re medicating themselves.”
Interestingly enough, marijuana use has not increased with the shift to a more positive attitude. This has left researchers perplexed. However, this may point to the fact that educated students, who truly understand the risks and benefits of a drug, are better at limiting their own use of that substance.