When you talk to the teenagers in your life, do you feel like they don’t listen? That your words go in one ear and out the other (or straight over their head altogether)? Don’t give up – there are positive signs that some kinds of substance use among our teens are on the decline.
FINALLY some good news about our teens! There is evidence we are seeing teen smoking and alcohol use DECREASE in the USA!
There was a research article published last week in Pediatrics that found that high school seniors in 2014 were five times more likely to report they had never tried cigarettes or alcohol than they were in the mid-1970s. Similar trends were seen for younger adolescents as well.
Why is this happening? There are likely a lot of reasons. First of all, it’s illegal for teens under 18 to buy or use tobacco products. Granted, whether something is illegal isn’t a great deterrent for either teens or adults, but it does make it more difficult for teens to smoke cigarettes than it was in the 70s.
Same with alcohol. Penalties for teenage drinking are increasing, as well as for parents who host parties where teens are drinking.
I’m seeing in my office that fewer and fewer teenagers report smoking cigarettes. Even better, they will often tell me that cigarettes are “gross.” I love hearing that! Cigarettes ARE gross! The social pressure to smoke cigarettes is definitely decreasing among teens.
The downside to this is that smoking hookah (tobacco in a water pipe) and vaping are hugely on the rise. Both of these are also illegal to sell or provide to minors, but the social pressure seems to favor these behaviors over smoking cigarettes.
What really concerns me is the recent sharp increase in marijuana smoking. More and more of my teenage patients tell me they smoke pot, and they often don’t see any problem with it. It seems like high school social pressures have moved away from cigarettes and towards behaviors that seem safer but really aren’t.
Those of us who are parenting or have leadership roles with teens need to be aware of these trends and continue to work to educate our kids. There is danger in ALL tobacco products, marijuana, alcohol, other recreational drugs, and electronic cigarettes.
QUESTION: Do you spend time with teens? Would you agree that drinking and smoking are decreasing?