Report: Teen alcohol and cigarette use plummets, weed stays steady

Your highschool health teacher was right. There was only a small number of other kids in your school that actually, actively smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol. The most recent study of high school-aged students in the USA published by the CDC on the matter showed that alcohol and cigarette use was falling – while use of marijuana went up, then back down again.

What percentage of high school students drink alcohol?

Results from the most recent data (published in 2018 about the year 2017) showed that of three (yes, there was only three available) race/ethnicity groups, it was "White" that reported most commonly that they "currently" drank alcohol (that included having a drink in the past 30 days.) After White students, it was Hispanic students, then Black students, with 32.4, 31.3, and 20.8% reporting they currently drank alcohol.

Comparing results from the same study done over the past 16 years, there's been a rather sizable decrease in "the overall prevalence of having ever drunk alcohol." In 1991, the percentage of students that'd ever drunk alcohol was 81.6%, while in 2019 that number had decreased to 60.4%.

The same was true of "current alcohol use," between 1991 and 2017, student response went from 50.8% to 29.8% for "overall prevalence of current alcohol use." That's just below one in three high school students reporting they currently drank alcohol.

What percentage of high school students smoke cigarettes?

Another significant decrease was found in prevalence of having "ever tried cigarette smoking" between 1991 and 2017, going from 70.1% to 28.9% in high school students. For "current cigarette use", those numbers came up 27.5%–8.8%. That's less than one in ten students reporting they currently smoked cigarettes.

What percentage of high school students smoke weed?

For marijuana, 35.6% of students reported they they'd ever smoked – and the percentages for each of the three included races were quite different from those of alcohol, at black (42.8%), then Hispanic (42.4%), then white (32.0%) students reporting they'd ever smoked weed.

Trend analysis for marijuana use was odd, in that the percentage of students that reported ever having tried the drug stayed largely the same between 1991 and 2017, at (31.3%–35.6%). Having ever tried weed respondent percentage went up between 1991–1997 (31.3%–47.1%), then down 1997–2017 (47.1%–35.6%).

Similar numbers racked up for "current" marijuana use between 1991–2017 at (14.7%–19.8%). Similar ramps up and back down also occurred between 1991–1995 (14.7%–25.3%) and 1995–2017 (25.3%–19.8%).

Dual and Poly Use

A study published this month showed further analysis of this data, delivering data on student responses on single, dual, and poly uses of these three products. While we see the ramp up slightly with marijuana in the results above, we see a significant jump in percentage of students that ONLY smoke marijuana. The percentage of students smoking marijuana ONLY, without cigarettes or alcohol, went from: 0.6% to 6.3% between 1991 and 2017.

Dual use of both alcohol and cigarettes took a dive over that same period, going from 11.8% to 1.7%. The study also took a look at Heroin use and other, heavier drugs, and found that use was largely decreasing – though it wasn't really reportedly ever high in the first place, at (2.4%–1.7%) for Heroin and (5.9%–4.8%) for Cocaine over the 1999–2017 coverage period.

NOTE: According to the most recent study, accessible through the CDC, "Survey procedures for the national, state, and large urban school district surveys were designed to protect students' privacy by allowing for anonymous and voluntary participation." So no worries about lower report levels from students worried about getting caught, one would hope!