Teen cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption hit a historic low this year, according to a National Institutes of Health report released Wednesday. However, use of other tobacco products—like hookahs and small cigars—remains high, and marijuana use has increased over recent years, the NIH said.
"That cigarette use has declined to historically low rates is welcome news, given our concerns that declines may have slowed or stalled in recent years," National Institute of Drug Abuse Director Nora Volkow said in a statement. "That said, the teen smoking rate is declining much more slowly than in years past, and we are seeing teens consume other tobacco products at high levels. This highlights the urgency of maintaining strong prevention efforts against teen smoking and of targeting other tobacco products."
Nearly 19 percent of high school seniors and roughly 6 percent of eighth-graders smoked a cigarette in the past month, a decrease from recent highs of 36.5 percent in 1997 and 21 percent in 1996, the 2011 Monitoring the Future Survey found.
Alcohol use had also dropped, with 63.5 percent of 12th-graders and 26.9 percent of eighth-graders reporting consumption over the past year. “There was also a five-year decrease in binge drinking, measured as five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks, across all three grades,” the NIH statement said.
However, marijuana use seems to be increasingly popular. More than a third of high school seniors—36.4 percent—said in 2011 they had used marijuana in the past year, compared to about 31 percent in 2006. Roughly 7 percent of seniors said they smoke marijuana daily, up from 5 percent five years ago.
Perhaps more worryingly, almost one in nine 12th-graders reported smoking synthetic marijuana over the past year. "Concerns about the use of synthetic marijuana, known as K2 or spice, prompted its inclusion in the survey for the first time in 2011," the NIH said.
"K2 and spice are dangerous drugs that can cause serious harm," said Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy.
More thn 46,000 students from 400 public and private schools took part in 2011’s Monitoring the Future Survey, the NIH said.