On kidsdata.org, most indicators of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use come from the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) through a partnership with WestEd, which developed and administers the CHKS, and the California Department of Education. These indicators include:
- Recent use of alcohol or other drugs, not including tobacco, in the past month and on school property. In addition, kidsdata.org offers alcohol use in the past month and on school property, binge drinking in the past month, cigarette use in the past month and on school property, and
marijuana use in the past month and on school property.
- Lifetime use of alcohol, cigarettes, inhalants, marijuana, and recreational use of prescription drugs
- Reports of how much students drink alcohol or use marijuana or other drugs
- Reports of drinking and driving or riding with a driver who had been drinking
Most of these indicators are available by gender, grade (7th, 9th, and 11th), race/ethnicity, and level of connectedness to school. School connectedness is a summary measure that includes being treated fairly, feeling close to people, feeling happy, feeling part of school, and feeling safe at school.
Additionally, an indicator of children living in households with smokers is available for California, the Bay Area, and Los Angeles County based on a 2010 survey of parents.
Youth alcohol, tobacco or other drug use is associated with a wide range of health, social and academic challenges. For example, teen alcohol use has been linked to risky health behaviors (e.g., unprotected sex), poor academic performance, physical and/or dating violence, motor vehicle accidents, crime, and suicide attempts (1, 2). Excessive alcohol consumption that continues into adulthood can have long-term consequences as well, including liver disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease (3, 4). Cigarette smoking during the teen years also is related to risky behaviors, such as drinking and other drug use; cigarette smoking that is sustained over time is related to a variety of physical health problems later in life (e.g., cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illness) (5, 6). Marijuana use can adversely affect health in both the short- and long-term. Specifically, smoking marijuana can cause anxiety attacks, memory impairment, coordination loss, increased heart rate, breathing problems, and/or cognitive deficits (7). The use of marijuana by teens also is associated with poorer academic performance and delinquent and aggressive behavior (7).
According to 2011 data, 6.6% of U.S. 12th graders reported using
marijuana daily, an increase from 5.8% in 2001. Youth reports of daily
cigarette use are more common, with 10.3% of 12th graders reporting
daily use in 2011 although this percentage has declined dramatically (by
more than 45%) over the past decade. A small percentage (2.1%) of 12th
graders reported daily alcohol use in 2011, but 40.0% reported any use
within the past month. Both of these figures have declined since 2001;
daily alcohol use dropped by 42% and any use within the past month
decreased by 20% (8, 9).
For more information on Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs please see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
Sources for this narrative:
- Child Trends. (2012). Binge drinking. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/?q=node/284
- Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. (2011). America’s children: Key national indicators of well-being, 2011. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved from: http://www.childstats.gov/pubs/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2004). Alcohol-attributable deaths and years of potential life lost. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, 53(37), 866-870. Retrieved from:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. (1999). The relationship between mental health and substance abuse among adolescents. OAS Analytic Series, 9(SMA), 99-3286. Retrieved from: http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/NHSDA/A-9/comorb3c.htm#TopOfPage
- Child Trends (2011). Daily cigarette use. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/?q=node/265
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2010). How tobacco smoke causes disease: The biology and behavioral basis for smoking-attributable disease: A report of the Surgeon General. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/2010/index.htm
- Child Trends. (2010). Marijuana use. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/?q=node/278
- Johnston, L. D., O'Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2011). Marijuana use continues to rise among U.S. teens, while alcohol use hits historic lows. University of Michigan News Service: Ann Arbor, MI. Retrieved from: http://www.monitoringthefuture.org
- Johnston, L. D., O'Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2011). Decline in teen smoking resumes in 2011. University of Michigan News Service: Ann Arbor, MI. Retrieved from: http://www.monitoringthefuture.org
Public policy can promote early identification of known risk factors for youth substance use, such as aggressive behavior, poverty, lack of parental supervision, school failure, drug availability, and substance abuse by peers (1, 2). It also can promote protective factors, such as school connectedness, family economic stability, and academic success (1, 2). Early intervention can be effective, especially when specifically tailored to the population and risk factors (2). Controlling youth smoking requires particular attention to mass media and marketing (4).
According to research and subject experts, policy options for addressing alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use by youth include:
- Ensuring adequate funding for age-appropriate treatment of heavy substance use, and ensuring that substance abuse and mental health insurance benefits are sufficient in amount and scope to be effective (1, 5)
- Prioritizing early identification of risk factors correlated with substance use, especially among middle school-age youth, many of which can be documented by schools (1, 2, 5)
- Developing school and community-wide policies to promote school and community “connectedness” among youth (2, 3)
- Promoting youth-focused, mass media counter-marketing strategies to combat tobacco advertising and appealing depiction in the media; and limiting tobacco marketing and sales to keep cigarettes out of the hands of youth (4)
For more policy ideas on this topic, see the Research & Links section on kidsdata.org or visit the American Medical Association’s Policy and Resource Guide on Alcohol Use and Adolescents, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, and TobaccoFreeCA.com. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org under School Connectedness, Suicide/Self-Inflicted Injuries, Gang Involvement, and Juvenile Arrests.
Sources for this narrative:
- Austin, et al. (2007). Heavy alcohol and drug use among California high school students 2003-04. California Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved from: http://www.wested.org/online_pubs/hhdp/css_10th_heavyusereport.pdf
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2003). Preventing drug use among children and adolescents: A research-based guide for parents, educators and community leaders. Retrieved from: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/preventing-drug-abuse-among-children-adolescents
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). School connectedness: Strategies for increasing protective factors among youth. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/adolescenthealth/pdf/connectedness.pdf
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2010). Ending the tobacco epidemic: A tobacco control strategic action plan for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from: http://www.hhs.gov/ash/initiatives/tobacco/tobaccostrategicplan2010.pdf
- Towey, K., & Fleming, M. (Eds.) (2006). Policy and resource guide: Alcohol use and adolescents. American College of Preventive Medicine and American Medical Association National Coalition for Adolescent Health: Chicago, IL. Retrieved from: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/39/policyguidealcohol.pdf
Most 7th, 9th, and 11th graders in California say that they have not
used alcohol, cigarettes, or marijuana in the past month. In 2008-10, about 25% of 9th graders and
34% of 11th graders reported using alcohol in the past 30 days. When asked if they had ever consumed alcohol, nearly half (46%) of 9th graders and almost two-thirds (62%) of 11th
reported having at least one full drink in their lifetime, according to 2008-10 data. Percentages typically are lower for reported cigarette use,
marijuana use, and recreational use of prescription drugs. Non-traditional students, those enrolled in Community
Day Schools or continuation education, are at highest risk for using
these substances. Students who report feeling less connected to their
schools also report higher levels of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug
Although a small percentage of students report the very highest
level of use of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana (20 days or more of
use in the past 30 days), that proportion increased statewide between
2004-06 and 2008-10; this was true for nearly all grades and types
of drugs, as well as for both boys and girls.
According to a 2010 survey of California parents, most children in the state (85%) live in smoke-free households. Low-income children are less likely to live in smoke-free homes than higher-income children.