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There was a time when cigarette smoking was considered to be a style statement by the teenagers. However, while both cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption have seen a decline in recent times, marijuana use amongst teenagers has steadily increased.

Cigarette and Alcohol Use amongst Teenagers Lowest since 1975

The results of the latest survey conducted by “Monitoring the Future” are out, and show new trends emerging among teenagers regarding cigarette, alcohol and marijuana use. “Monitoring the Future” is a survey conducted by the National Institute of Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan. It reflects the trends in substance abuse among adolescent students across the US. The survey was initially conducted on students of class 12 only. However, since 1991, it covers students of class 8 and 10 as well.


The survey, which encompassed around 400 public and private schools in the US and covered nearly 47,000 students, shows that cigarette and alcohol use amongst teenagers is lowest since 1975. This is encouraging news for the anti-smoking brigade which has worked hard for so many years to enlighten the student community about the ill effects of smoking. Marking areas as 100 percent smoke free, and increasing the prices of cigarettes, have both played an important role in deterring students from smoking.

Though alcohol retains its popularity, students seem to be more aware of the harm it can cause to liver. This has resulted in a reduced incidence of underage and binge drinking.

However, what has emerged as a disturbing trend in the survey is the increased popularity of marijuana among students. Its use has followed an upward trajectory for last four years and now it has overtaken cigarette smoking among high school seniors.

Perceived Risk of Regular Marijuana Use has Decreased among Students

Marijuana use among teenagers has reached an all time high, since the inception of the survey. The latest report suggests that one in every fifteen students in high school is using marijuana on a daily basis. 36.4% of all 12th graders reported smoking marijuana in past one year while 6.6% were found to be using it daily. Even students of class 8 have started using marijuana.

According to experts, it is largely because the perceived risk of regular marijuana use has decreased among students. Unlike cigarette smoking and alcohol use, they do not find marijuana to be responsible for any long lasting side effects. With an increased focus on medical marijuana, the students feel that when it can be given to patients, it obviously cannot be very harmful. Moreover, medical marijuana is legal in 16 states of the US and can be easily obtained on a medical card.


Students know that medical marijuana can be obtained on the pretext of conditions like chronic pain and migraine and this easy accessibility has also played an important part in its frequent abuse by teenagers.

Synthetic marijuana, better known as “Spice” or “K2” has also become immensely popular among students. It has been used by one in every nine high school students in the last year. Apart from marijuana, other products like “bath salts” are also being used by the students to give them a high. The abuse of these substances will be looked into in the next survey of “Monitoring the Future.”

  • “Teen smoking at historic lows but marijuana use high: survey”, by Lauren Keiper. Published in the December 14, 2011 issue of Reuters Health, accessed on January 18, 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/14/us-drugs-teens-survey-idUSTRE7BD1Q320111214
  • “InfoFacts: High School and Youth Trends”, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Revised in March 2011, accessed on January 18, 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/infofacts/high-school-youth-trends
  • “Marijuana Use Growing Among Teenagers”, by Anahad O’Connor. Published in the December 14, 2011 issue of The New York Times, accessed on January 18, 2012. Retrieved from: well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/marijuana-growing-in-popularity-among-teenagers/