Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Drinking, Bingeing and Toking More Popular Than Smoking Among Teens in 2014

Teen smoking deservedly gets a great deal of attention from the media and public policymakers, but one government survey shows that teens consume alcohol and marijuana at far higher rates than cigarettes.

The National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), which I discussed last week (here), provide intriguing insights into use of licit and illicit products.

At left are 2014 NSDUH estimates of the numbers – and percentages by age – of Americans using cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, alcohol and marijuana in the past month. (Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks within two hours)  There were nearly 56 million smokers, 8.6 million smokeless tobacco users, 22.5 million marijuana users and a whopping 140 million drinkers.  There were actually more binge drinkers (61 million) than smokers. 

The following table shows the number of teens (12-17 years) and young adults (18-20 years) who used these substances in 2014.

Numbers (millions) of Teens and Young Adults Who Were Past-Month Smokers, Smokeless Users, Drinkers, Binge Drinkers and Marijuana Users in 2014

Teens (12-17 yrs)Young Adults (18-20 yrsTotal

Smokeless Users0.500.661.16
Binge Drinkers1.533.745.27
Marijuana Users1.852.774.62

There were some 1.2 million past-month smokers under 18, and about half a million underage smokeless users.  These numbers pale in comparison to those for alcohol.  There were 2.8 million drinkers under 18, and another 5.9 million between 18 and 20.  There were more underage binge drinkers (1.5 million) and marijuana users (1.85 million) than smokers.  The totals for marijuana, drinking and binge drinking are all greater than smoking.

Teenage smoking must be prevented, but teen abuse of alcohol and marijuana also requires attention.

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