High school students in the U.S. are more likely to smoke marijuana daily than they are to smoke cigarettes, according to an annual government survey of drug, alcohol and tobacco use released Wednesday.
About 6 percent of 12th grade students reported that they smoked pot daily — about the same percentage as in 2014. And 5.5 percent of high school seniors reported smoking tobacco cigarettes every day, down from 6.7 percent in 2014. It is the first time since the survey was first conducted in 1975 that daily marijuana use has eclipsed smoking.
The perception of marijuana as risky has declined steadily, with 31.9 percent of seniors saying that regular marijuana use may be harmful, down from 36.1 percent in 2014.
The survey, called Monitoring the Future, is given by researchers from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor to nearly 45,000 eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders at 382 public and private schools across the United States and is funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
“Continued areas of concern are the high rate of daily marijuana smoking seen among high school students, because of marijuana’s potential deleterious effects on the developing brains of teenagers, and the high rates of overall tobacco products and nicotine containing e-cigarettes usage,” the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s director, Dr. Nora D. Volkow, said in a statement.
The survey showed that the use of some types of illicit drugs is on the decline among high school students. For example, about 5.2 percent of 12th-graders said they used synthetic marijuana in the last year, down from 11.4 percent in 2011. Some 3.6 percent of high school seniors said they used MDMA, or Molly, in the last year, from 5.0 percent in 2014. The abuse of prescription opioids is dropping, too, with 4.4 percent of 12th-graders reporting that they used Vicodin in the last year, down from 4.8 percent in the previous year and a significant drop from a high of 10.5 percent in 2003.
However, the use of OxyContin rose slightly among high school seniors, with 3.7 percent reporting they took it in the last year, up from 3.3 percent in 2014. Still, that was a decline from 5.1 percent in 2010.
Some 23.6 percent of high school seniors reported that they used an illicit drug in the last month, with 7.6 percent reporting that they used one other than cannabis. That was not a statistically significant change from 23.7 percent and 7.7 percent in 2014, respectively.
Teens are drinking alcohol less, according to the survey, with 37.7 percent of high school seniors reporting that they got drunk in the last year, down from 41.4 percent in 2014 and a significant decline from a high of 53.2 percent in 2001.
While a smaller percentage of teens is smoking cigarettes, they’re increasingly using electronic cigarettes. Some 16.2 percent of 12th-graders reported using an e-cigarette in the past 30 days, compared with 11.4 percent who said they smoked a cigarette in that time.
The researchers found that half the students who tried e-cigarettes did so out of curiosity. About 40 percent tried them because they tasted good and 10 percent because they were trying to quit regular cigarettes.