HEADLINES Published December17, 2015 By Bernadette Strong

Teens Use of Alcohol and Tobacco Still Dropping

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The umbers of teens who say they use alcohol, drugs, or tobacco is continuing to go down.
(Photo : Chris Hondros, Getty Images)

The rate at which teens drink or smoke continued to decline in 2015, according to a survey. The use of some drugs, including prescription painkillers, by eighth-graders and high school students also fell, while the rate for marijuana use has remained flat. These findings are from a study conducted by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.  

Only 7% of students in grades eight, 10 and 12 who were polled reported smoking cigarettes in the previous month, down from 8% a year earlier. Teen smoking is at its lowest level since the university began its national survey on licit and illicit substance use in 1975. This reduction appears to be due to increased taxes, advertising restrictions, smoking bans in many public places, and quit-smoking campaigns, the study reported.

"Such a reduction [in smoking] can translate eventually into preventing hundreds of thousands of premature deaths as well as many serious diseases," Lloyd Johnston, principal investigator of the study, said in a statement.

Alcohol use is also at its lowest levels since the mid-1970s. Forty percent of students polled said they had used alcohol in the past year and 22% said they had used it in the previous 30 days.

The number of students who reported using heroin, synthetic marijuana, amphetamines, or MDMA (ecstasy) also declined. There was no change in the use of marijuana, the most widely used illicit drug. The survey found that 12% of eighth-graders, 25% of 10th-graders, and 35% of 12th-graders reported using marijuana at least once in the prior 12 months.

The prevalence of marijuana use among teens has been level since 2010.

The percentage of 12th graders who said they had used narcotics other than heroin, such as prescription opioids such as Vicodin or OxyContin, decreased to 5.4% from a high of 9.5% in 2004. 

The study was funded by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one of the National Institutes of Health. It surveyed 44,892 students in 382 secondary schools. 

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