Substances that carry long-term health consequences, like alcohol and tobacco, have fallen out of favor with teenagers.
In previous generations, parents worried their children might hang with the wrong crowd and end up underneath the bleachers smoking a joint or drinking a beer. Nowadays, parents still worry about their kids, but their concern revolves around whether they vape or not.
According to a new Monitoring the Future poll from the National Institutes of Health, teenage vaping use has been on the rise. Among 12th graders nationwide, 30.9% reported past-month usage and 40.6% admitted vaping over the past year. In 2019, 12th graders were 5.4 times more likely to use vaping products than smoke a cigarette in the past 30 days. Comparatively, today’s teenagers smoked e-vapor products in the past month at the same rate as teens who smoked tobacco in 2000.
Overall, teenagers are turning away from products they believe exhibit long-term health consequences and opting for substances they deem safer and easier to use. For example, 74% of people who were 12th graders in 1975 reported smoking a cigarette in their lifetime, but only 22% of 2019 12th graders have ever smoked a cigarette. Meanwhile, 46% of today’s adolescents admit to using a vaporizer, either to consume nicotine or cannabis.
The same is true in alcohol vs. cannabis. More than 50% of 1992 teenagers reported using alcohol within the past 30 days while 29.3% of teens today would say the same. On the other hand, 22.3% of adolescents today have used cannabis in the past month, the poll reports. Of those same 1992 teenagers who didn’t fret over experimenting with booze, only 11.9% smoked marijuana within the past 30 days. What we’ve seen is a convergence between the perceived risk and usage rates of alcohol and cannabis among teenagers.
“As these trends have been borne out, we continue to see declines in lifetime alcohol incidence, which currently stands at 58.5% vs. 61.5% in 2017,” reads a new report from investment bank Cowen Inc. regarding the MTF poll.
“Consistent with prior commentary, we attribute the steady decline to an increasingly health conscious consumer. Meanwhile, cannabis lifetime incidence has remained relatively steady over the past ten years.”
We’re also seeing that teenagers have become more open to regular cannabis consumption. The perceived risk of regularly smoking marijuana among adolescents has dropped from 76.5% in 1992 to 30.3% in 2019. At same time, disapproval of alcohol use from 12th graders has been on the rise.
“In addition, we see evidence of decreased alcoholic consumption levels among heavy users,” Cowen’s report reads. “Over the last five years, the percentage of teens who have indicated that they have been drunk is down 600 bps to 17.5%. Along those lines, leveraging data from the CDC, we have seen binge drinking sessions per month move lower in adult use states relative to non-cannabis states.”