Definition: Estimated percentage of public school students in grades 7, 9, 11, and non-traditional programs who have ever smoked a full cigarette, by grade level and number of occasions (e.g., in 2013-2015, an estimated 2.8% of 9th graders in California had smoked at least a whole cigarette on seven or more occasions in their lifetimes).
Footnote: Years presented comprise two school years (e.g., 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years are shown as 2013-2015). County- and state-level data are weighted estimates; school district-level data are unweighted. Students in non-traditional programs are those enrolled in community day schools or continuation education. The notation S refers to (a) data for school districts that have been suppressed because there were fewer than 10 respondents in that group, and (b) data for counties that have been suppressed because the sample was too small to be representative. N/A means that data are not available.
Learn More About Youth Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use
Measures of Youth Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use on Kidsdata.org
On kidsdata.org, indicators of youth alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use come from:
Data based on student reports are available by grade level (7, 9, 11, and/or non-traditional), gender, level of school connectedness,* parent education level, and sexual orientation.
*Levels of school connectedness are based on a scale created from responses to five questions about feeling safe, close to people, and a part of school, being happy at school, and about teachers treating students fairly.
Youth alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use is a significant public health concern and is associated with a wide range of academic, social, and health problems (1, 2). Alcohol is the most widely used substance among the nation's young people and binge drinking, in particular, has been linked to risky health behaviors (e.g., unprotected sex, smoking), injuries, motor vehicle accidents, impaired cognitive functioning, poor academic performance, physical violence, and suicide attempts (1, 2). Drinking during adolescence increases the likelihood of alcohol dependence in adulthood, and excessive alcohol consumption can have long-term health consequences, including liver disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease (1, 2).
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable and premature death in the U.S., resulting in more than 480,000 deaths annually (3). Smoking has cumulative, irreversible negative health effects, and most long-term smokers start when they are teens or young adults (3, 4). Tobacco use or smoking in any form—including electronic cigarettes—is unsafe (3, 4). Marijuana use, too, is linked to adverse effects such as respiratory problems, anxiety attacks, cognitive difficulties, and coordination loss, as well as aggressive behavior and poor academic performance among youth (5).
Opioid misuse is a national crisis; among adolescents ages 15-19, the rate of opioid-related overdose death tripled between 1999 and 2015, from 0.8 to 2.4 per 100,000 (6). Data from a 2017 survey of teens, however, show historically low rates of opioid use, along with declines in perceived availability (7).
For more information on this topic, see kidsdata.org's Research & Links section.
According to 2013-15 estimates, 10% of 7th graders, 23% of 9th graders, and 33% of 11th graders in California public schools used alcohol or drugs in the previous 30 days. Among students in non-traditional programs (community day schools and continuation education), alcohol or drug use in the past month was higher than 60%—almost double the estimate for 11th graders. Statewide, 16% of 11th graders binge drank at least once in the previous month, and 18% had either driven when they had been drinking, or had ridden with a driver who had been drinking, at least once in their lifetimes. E-cigarette use typically was more common than cigarette smoking: 31% of 11th graders had used e-cigarettes at least once, compared to 17% who had smoked cigarettes. Lifetime marijuana use among California 11th graders was 64% overall, and ranged from 45% to 74% across counties with data.
Gay, lesbian, and bisexual students more frequently report substance use, as do students with low levels of school connectedness and those whose parents did not finish high school. Across all grade levels in 2013-15, estimates of alcohol or drug use in the previous month were higher for girls than for boys.
High school staff reports from the same period show that 44% considered student alcohol and drug use a moderate to severe problem. At the same time more than six out of ten agreed that substance abuse prevention was an important goal at their school, and seven out of 10 reported that their school provided at least some substance use prevention education.
Public policy can promote early identification of known risk factors for youth substance use, such as poor school performance, truancy, lack of parental supervision, aggressive behavior, drug availability, and substance use by peers (1, 2, 3). Policies and programs also can promote protective factors, such as school engagement, positive community connections, and academic success (1). Screening and early intervention can be effective, especially when specifically tailored to the population and risk factors (3, 4). Controlling youth smoking (including e-cigarettes) and alcohol consumption also requires particular attention to mass media and marketing (5, 6).
Policy and program options for addressing youth alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use include:
Prioritizing screening and early identification of risk factors correlated with substance use, especially among middle school youth; screening should include mental health issues, as they often co-occur with substance abuse (3, 4, 7)
Developing comprehensive policies that promote school and community connectedness among youth and help them develop the knowledge, skills, and motivation to avoid substance use; such policies should focus on preadolescence through young adulthood and involve support from families, schools, colleges, community organizations, government, and others (5, 6, 7)
Promoting youth-focused, mass media counter-marketing strategies to combat tobacco and alcohol advertising; also reducing youth exposure to tobacco and alcohol marketing, including monitoring compliance with marketing standards (5, 6)
Ensuring adequate funding, accessibility, and availability of developmentally appropriate, research-based treatment for youth substance abuse (3, 4)
Continuing to enforce, strengthen, and extend evidence-based legislation, such as increased prices on alcohol and tobacco products, and keg registration requirements (5, 6, 8)
1. Patrick, M. E., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2014). Prevalence and predictors of adolescent alcohol use and binge drinking in the United States. Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, 35(2), 193-200. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3908711