“Cigarette smoking is at lowest levels in the history of the survey and overall drug use among teens and adolescents is continuing to decline.”
Those are the words of Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health, commenting on their annual survey of youth health, “Monitoring the Future.” Since 1975, the National Institutes of Health has surveyed youth about all kinds of drug use.
In 1977, the peak year in the survey, 75.7% of twelfth graders reported that they have ever smoked. This year it was down to exactly half – 50.0%. Next year, perhaps, we will pass the threshold, and my year-end headline can be “Most teens have never smoked.” In that peak year of 1977, nearly a fifth (19.4%) of high school senior smoked half a pack or more a day. Today, it is down to 6.9%. Teen attitudes toward smoking have improved, too. Whereas at the beginning of the survey barely a majority (51.3%) of teens disapproved of smoking, now a solid three quarters (76.5%) disapprove – also a new record.
This compares to an adult smoking rate of 20.9%. Since most smokers started as teenagers, today’s much lower teen smoking results bode well for the future.