The percentage of teens who are smoking and drinking is dropping, and that’s great news for teens’ health!
This year’s Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey results, which were released Dec. 13, show that teens today are less likely than they were in years past to use alcohol and tobacco. For example, only 4.8 percent of high school seniors this year said that they smoked tobacco on a daily basis. That’s way down from 1996, when 22.2 percent of high school seniors said they smoked every day! Since tobacco is the leading preventable cause of disease, this downward trend is great news for teens’ health today and in the future.
Use of e-cigarettes is also down, with close to 13 percent of teens using them in the past month, compared to more than 16 percent last year. On the other hand, many teens say they aren’t sure what’s in the liquid they’re vaping. (As we’ve noted before, that liquid may contain chemicals that are toxic.)
Teens now are also less likely to drink alcohol. About a third of high school seniors said they’d used alcohol in the past month. That number is still higher than we’d like—alcohol increases the risk of car crashes and injuries, and underage drinking is especially dangerous because teens’ brains are still developing—but it’s better than 20 years ago, when about half of seniors said they had used alcohol in the past month.
For the 2016 MTF survey, funded by NIDA, researchers surveyed 45,473 students from 372 schools. The survey has happened every year since 1975, so it’s a great way for researchers to understand how teen substance use has changed over time.
Thank you to the MTF participants for helping us to learn these facts! You can check out the main NIDA website for the rest of the survey’s findings; they’re described in videos and in more infographics like the ones above.