Johnston says decline in teen smoking ‘particularly encouraging’

December 10, 2008

Annual University of Michigan survey finds decline in teen smoking across United Statesby Dave Gershman | The Ann Arbor News Thursday December 11, 2008, 9:56 AMCigarette smoking among teenagers dropped again this year and is now at the lowest ever recorded in an annual survey by University of Michigan researchers.Meanwhile, teen marijuana use rose very slightly, and alcohol use fell slightly.Smoking rates had been dropping since a peak in the mid-1990s, and this year’s Monitoring the Future survey hinted at another drop in smoking to levels that may be at record lows.The survey shows fewer teenagers try smoking cigarettes. Most say they prefer to date people who don’t smoke and think becoming a smoker reflects poor judgment.Lloyd Johnston, the U-M researcher who is the lead investigator of the survey, said this generation will live healthier and longer lives.”The fact that teen smoking is still declining is particularly encouraging,” he said, “because a couple of years ago it looked like the long decline in youth smoking might be coming to an end.”Cigarette smoking among 12th-graders is the lowest it has been since the survey began querying 12th-graders in 1975. This year, 20 percent of 12th-graders reported smoking at least once in the 30 days before the survey.Cigarette smoking among eighth- and 10th-graders is also the lowest it has been since those students began being surveyed in 1991, a period when smoking began making a rapid comeback among teens. This year, 7 percent of eighth-graders and 12 percent of 10th-graders said they had smoked at least once in the previous 30 days.Kathryn Ashin, 17, a student at Community High School, said there is little peer pressure to smoke these days. “People are starting to realize that it’s bad for you and it’s not attractive – ever,” she said.Researchers gave credit to the tobacco settlement signed in 1998 between tobacco companies and state attorneys general. Among its provisions was a prohibition on certain types of cigarette advertising. It also funded anti-smoking ads aimed at teenagers and led to an increase in the retail price of packs of cigarettes.The Monitoring the Future survey is given each year to a national sample of 45,000 students in about 400 schools. U-M’s Institute for Social Research conducts the study for the federal government. The latest findings were released this morning in Washington, D.C.Use of alcohol held steady among eighth-graders and continued to drop among 10th- and 12th-graders. Its use reached a peak in the mid-1990s and has gradually dropped. This year, 16 percent of eighth-graders, 29 percent of 10th-graders and 43 percent of 12th-graders reported that they drank alcohol at least once in the 30 days before being surveyed.Marijuana is still the most prevalent drug used by teenagers: 10.9 percent of eighth-graders, 23.9 percent of 10th-graders and 32.4 percent of 12th-graders. While its use had been declining in recent years, this year’s survey showed small increases in its use among eighth- and 12th-graders – less than one percentage point.Use of amphetamines was 6.8 percent for 12th-graders, and less for younger students. Use of cocaine and crack continued to drop somewhat, to less than 5 percent of students.Use of drugs like LSD held steady, at less than 3 percent of students. Use of heroin also held steady, at less than 1 percent of students.Reporter Dave Gershman can be reached at 734-994-6818 or [email protected].

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