American teenagers are now more likely to light up a joint than smoke a cigarette, new survey data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse show, and one in nine high school seniors has tried synthetic marijuana.
The survey, released last month, found that while the rate at which 8th, 10th, and 12th graders smoke cigarettes daily or even in a month is at a historical low, marijuana use has been rising for the past five years.
The data come from an annual survey of a nationally representative set of 8th graders and high school sophomores and seniors. It has been conducted by the University of Michigan since 1975, with 8th and 10th graders added in 1991. This year’s survey involved 46,773 students at 400 public and private schools.
It found that 36.4 percent of seniors reported smoking marijuana in the last year, and almost 7 percent said they used it every day, compared with 31.5 percent and 5 percent, respectively, five years ago.
Despite the decreases in cigarette and alcohol use, too many students are still using them, according to researchers. The survey found that 2.4 percent of 8th graders, 5.5 percent of 10th graders, and 10.3 percent of 12th graders said they smoke every day, and 18.7 percent of 12th graders reported smoking within the last month, compared with 21.6 percent five years ago. Students reported drinking alcohol less—63.5 percent of 12th graders said they’d had alcohol in the last year compared with 74.8 percent in 1997.
One in nine high school seniors said they had used synthetic marijuana, such as the brands K2 and Spice, in the past year.
A version of this article appeared in the January 11, 2012 edition of Education Week as More Teens Turn to Pot; Fewer Smoke Cigarettes