Survey: Teen Nicotine Vaping Rates Stop Rising

teen drug use
teen drug use

New research from Monitoring the Future’s annual tracking of U.S. teens’ drugs and alcohol use and attitude

By William Wagner

December 16, 2020

What does the future look like for America’s youth? At least where drugs and alcohol are concerned, it’s a mixed bag.

The verdict comes from the annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey. Conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), it measures attitudes and behaviors of U.S. teens around substances and alcohol. The results were released yesterday.

One of the most notable takeaways is that teen vaping of nicotine leveled off over the past year. But before you get a warm and fuzzy feeling, consider that usage still is at an alarming level. From 2017 to ’19, the percentage of 12th graders who admitted to vaping nicotine over the previous 12 months nearly doubled (18.8% to 35.3%). The percentage remained about the same in 2020 (34.5%).

It is encouraging to see a leveling off of this [nicotine vaping] trend, though the rates still remain very high.”— Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director, NIDA

“The rapid rise of teen nicotine vaping in recent years has been unprecedented and deeply concerning since we know that nicotine is highly addictive and can be delivered at high doses by vaping devices, which may also contain other toxic chemicals that may be harmful when inhaled,” Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of NIDA, said in a news release. “It is encouraging to see a leveling off of this trend, though the rates still remain very high.”

Some other key findings in this year’s survey:

  • Among 8th, 10th and 12th graders, marijuana use stayed about the same from 2019 to ’20.
  • Alcohol use among teens in those same grades has been at about the level over the past five years.
  • Among 12th graders, use of “hard” drugs like cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy), methamphetamine and heroin remained low. For example, 0.3% of 12th graders said they had used heroin over the past year.

The MTF survey has been around since 1975 and also examines issues other than substance and alcohol use, such as attitudes toward gender roles and views about the media.

Photo: Alexis Brown