A new study has shown that nearly 30 per cent of all 12th graders were using some kind of vaping device last year – ranging from just flavoring devices to marijuana and everything in between.
The 2017 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey of eighth, 10th and 12th graders in schools across the US also found that use of hookahs and regular cigarettes is declining. The survey asks teens about “any vaping” to measure their use of electronic vaporizers. It is important to note that some research suggests that many teens don’t actually know what is in the device they are using, and even if they read the label, not all labeling is consistent or accurate.
The survey shows that 27.8 percent of high school seniors reported “vaping” in the year prior to the survey, which was taken in the beginning of 2017. When asked what they thought was in the mist they inhaled the last time they used the vaping device, 51.8 percent of 12th graders said, “just flavoring,” 32.8 percent said “nicotine,” and 11.1 percent said “marijuana” or “hash oil.” The survey also asks about vaping with specific substances during the past month, with more than one in ten 12th graders saying they use nicotine, and about one in twenty reporting using marijuana in the device.
The 2017 survey also confirms the recent trend that daily marijuana use has become as, or more, popular than daily cigarette smoking among teens, representing a dramatic flip in use between these two drugs since the survey began in 1975. In the past decade, daily marijuana use among 12th graders has remained relatively consistent, but daily cigarette smoking has dropped.
When combining responses in all three grades, data suggest past year marijuana use is up slightly to 23.9 percent, from 22.6 percent last year, but similar to 2015 rates (23.7 percent). However, because overall marijuana rates remain stable, researchers continue to carefully monitor any potential trends as they emerge. The survey indicates that significantly fewer teens now disapprove of regular marijuana use, with 64.7 percent of 12th graders voicing disapproval, compared to 68.5 percent last year. The survey reports that high school seniors in states with medical marijuana laws are more likely to have vaped marijuana and consumed marijuana edibles than their counterparts without such laws. For example, survey data suggests that 16.7 percent of 12th graders in states with medical marijuana laws report consuming edibles, compared to 8.3 percent in states without such laws.
Inhalant use–the one category of drug use that is typically higher among younger students–is back up to 2015 levels among eighth graders, measured at 4.7 percent, compared to 3.8 percent in 2016. However, rates are still low, showing a significant decline from peak rates in 1995, when 12.8 percent of eighth graders reported using an inhalant to get high in the past year.
Overall, illicit drug use other than marijuana and inhalants, remains the lowest in the history of the survey in all three grades, with 13.3 percent of 12th graders reporting past year use, compared to 9.4 percent of 10th graders and 5.8 percent of eighth graders. These successes underscore the importance of continuing evidence-based prevention programs targeting children approaching their teenage years.
After years of steady decline, binge drinking appears to have leveled off this year, and public health researchers will be closely watching these behaviors in the coming years. However, rates are still down significantly from the survey’s peak years. Binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks in a row sometime in the last two weeks.