The Good News

This year's Monitoring the Future Survey shows historical lows in cigarette and alcohol trends.

  • Compared to peak rates in the mid-to late 1990s, daily cigarette use is down significantly among all three grades, with 2.4 percent of 8th graders, 5.5 percent of 10th graders, and 10.3 percent of 12th graders reporting daily use. From 2010 to 2011, there were also significant declines in current cigarette use (use in the past 30 days) among 10th graders, down from 13.6% to 11.8%, and in smoking a half pack or more per day - now under 2%. Despite these continued decreases, the decline in smoking has slowed in recent years and these levels remain too high given the significant morbidity and mortality associated with tobacco use.
  • Likewise, five-year trends showed significant decreases in alcohol use among nearly all grades and across all prevalence periods. For example, binge use of alcohol (defined as 5 or more drinks in a row in the last two weeks) declined from 8.7% to 6.4% among 8th graders, 19.9% to 14.7% among 10th graders and 25.4% to 21.6% among high school seniors from 2006 to 2011. From 2010 to 2011, decreases were observed in lifetime, past year, daily, and binge use of alcohol among 10th graders; lifetime and past year use among 8th graders; and daily use among 12th graders.
Percentage of U.S. twelth grade students reporting past month use of cigarettes and marijunana, 1975 to 2011. Source: The Monitoring the Future study, the University of Michigan.
Read the full description of Percentage of U.S. twelth grade students reporting past month use of cigarettes and marijunana, 1975 to 2011
  • Year 1975: Cigarettes 36.7, Marijuana 27.1
  • Year 1976: Cigarettes 38.8, Marijuana 32.2
  • Year 1977: Cigarettes 38.4, Marijuana 35.4
  • Year 1978: Cigarettes 36.7, Marijuana 37.1
  • Year 1979: Cigarettes 34.4, Marijuana 36.5
  • Year 1980: Cigarettes 30.5, Marijuana 33.7
  • Year 1981: Cigarettes 29.4, Marijuana 31.6
  • Year 1982: Cigarettes 30, Marijuana 28.5
  • Year 1983: Cigarettes 30.3, Marijuana 27
  • Year 1984: Cigarettes 29.3, Marijuana 25.2
  • Year 1985: Cigarettes 30.1, Marijuana 25.7
  • Year 1986: Cigarettes 29.6, Marijuana 23.4
  • Year 1987: Cigarettes 29.4, Marijuana 21
  • Year 1988: Cigarettes 28.7, Marijuana 18
  • Year 1989: Cigarettes 28.6, Marijuana 16.7
  • Year 1990: Cigarettes 29.4, Marijuana 14
  • Year 1991: Cigarettes 28.3, Marijuana 13.8
  • Year 1992: Cigarettes 27.8, Marijuana 11.9
  • Year 1993: Cigarettes 29.9, Marijuana 15.5
  • Year 1994: Cigarettes 31.2, Marijuana 19
  • Year 1995: Cigarettes 33.5, Marijuana 21.2
  • Year 1996: Cigarettes 34, Marijuana 21.9
  • Year 1997: Cigarettes 36.5, Marijuana 23.7
  • Year 1998: Cigarettes 35.1, Marijuana 22.8
  • Year 1999: Cigarettes 34.6, Marijuana 23.1
  • Year 2000: Cigarettes 31.4, Marijuana 21.6
  • Year 2001: Cigarettes 29.5, Marijuana 22.4
  • Year 2002: Cigarettes 26.7, Marijuana 21.5
  • Year 2003: Cigarettes 24.4, Marijuana 21.2
  • Year 2004: Cigarettes 25, Marijuana 19.9
  • Year 2005: Cigarettes 23.2, Marijuana 19.8
  • Year 2006: Cigarettes 21.6, Marijuana 18.3
  • Year 2007: Cigarettes 21.6, Marijuana 18.8
  • Year 2008: Cigarettes 20.4, Marijuana 19.4
  • Year 2009: Cigarettes 20.1, Marijuana 20.6
  • Year 2010: Cigarettes 19.2, Marijuana 21.4
  • Year 2011*: Cigarettes 19.0, Marijuana 22.4

* The numbers for 2011 are estimated from the graphic.

Areas of Concern

Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications Account for Most of the Commonly Abused Drugs: Past Year Use Among High School Seniors. In order, Marijuana, Synthetic Marijuana, Vicodin, Adderall, Salvia, Tranquilizers, Cough medicine, MDMA (
  • While marijuana use declined in the late 1990s and early 2000s, 5-year trends are showing significant increases among 10th and 12th graders for daily, current and past year use. This year, 12.5% of 8th graders, 28.8% of 10th graders, and 36.4% of 12th graders reported past-year marijuana use. Although there were no increases between 2010 and 2011, it appears that marijuana use continues to exceed cigarette use in these students. In 2011, 22.6% of high school seniors used marijuana in the past 30 days compared with 18.7% who smoked cigarettes.
  • Attitudes toward substance abuse, often seen as harbingers of change, perhaps could explain these findings. Among all three grades, recent trends show a decline in the perceived risk of harm associated with marijuana use.
  • This year's survey captured the use of synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or "Spice", among high school seniors for the first time. Almost 1 in 9, or 11.4%, of high school seniors reported using Spice in the past year.
  • After marijuana, prescription and over-the-counter medications account for most of the top illicit drugs abused by 12th graders in the past year. On the positive side, past-year nonmedical use of Vicodin by 10th graders declined from 7.7% in 2010 to 5.9% in 2011 and the decrease in the use of Vicodin by high school seniors reported last year remained unchanged, albeit at an unacceptably high level of 8.1% in this year's survey. However, OxyContin use remains an area of concern with past year nonmedical use holding steady across all the three grades for the past 5 years. The abuse of stimulants is also cause for alarm. For example, 8.2% of high school seniors reported past year use of Amphetamines in 2011, up from 6.6% in 2009.

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