Study: Fewer teens smoking cigarettes, but marijuana use rises

Dec 18, 2013

Fewer high school students are smoking cigarettes, according to a new study from the University of Michigan.

Researchers with U of M’s Monitoring the Future program have been asking teens about their smoking habits since 1975.  The research is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

In 1996, 49% of 8th graders admitted they had tried smoking a cigarette. This year that number dropped to just 15%.

Overall, the survey of more than 40,000 8th, 10th and 12th graders finds the number of teens who had smoked a cigarette in the past 30 days declined from 10.6% in 2012 to 9.6% in 2013.

"While the improvements in the smoking numbers for just this one year are important, of course, the longer term declines are much more so," says Lloyd Johnston, the study’s principal investigator, "Since teen smoking reached a peak around 1996-1997, the rates of current (past 30-day) smoking have fallen by nearly 80% among 8th graders, 70% among 10th graders and over 50% among 12th graders. Further, the proportional declines in daily smoking are even larger."

Researchers say there is growing social pressure among teens involving smoking. For example, 78% say they prefer dating non-smokers.

Researchers say the declining teen smoking rate is good news, since smoking is tied to serious diseases that kill more than 400 thousand Americans every year.

However, the same survey shows an increase in teens smoking marijuana.

“More noteworthy is the fact that the proportion of adolescents seeing marijuana use as risky declined again sharply in all three grades," Johnston said. "Perceived risk — namely the risk to the user that teenagers associate with a drug — has been a lead indicator of use, both for marijuana and other drugs, and it has continued its sharp decline in 2013 among teens. This could foretell further increases in use in the future."

Johnston says while marijuana use is up, teens are becoming more cautious of synthetic drugs, like "bath salts."