Surge of teen vaping levels off but remains high

Dec. 17, 2020

Findings released from the most recent Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey of substance use behaviors and related attitudes among teens in the United States indicate that levels of nicotine and marijuana vaping did not increase from 2019 to early 2020, although they remain high, according to a press release from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The annual MTF survey is conducted by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, Ann Arbor, and is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the NIH.

In the four years since the survey began including questions on nicotine and marijuana vaping, use of these substances among teens has increased to high levels. From 2017 to 2019, the percentage of teenagers who said they vaped nicotine in the past 12 months roughly doubled for all age groups: from 7.5 percent to 16.5 percent for eighth-graders, from 15.8 percent to 30.7 percent for 10th graders, and from 18.8 percent to 35.3 percent for 12th graders.

In 2020, the rates held steady at 16.6 percent (eighth-graders), 30.7 percent (10th graders) and 34.5 percent (12th graders).

However, somewhat encouragingly, daily, or near daily (20 occasions in the past 30 days), nicotine vaping declined among 10th and 12th graders from 2019 to 2020, by close to half -- from 6.8 percent to 3.6 percent in 10th grade and from 11.6 percent to 5.3 percent in 12th grade.

Past-year vaping of marijuana also remained steady in 2020, with 8.1 percent of eighth-graders, 19.1 percent 10th graders, and 22.1 percent of 12th graders reporting past-year use, following a two-fold increase over the past two years. Additionally, daily marijuana vaping significantly decreased by more than half from 2019 to 1.1 percent among 10th graders and 1.5 percent among 12th graders in 2020.

The MTF survey is given annually to students in eighth, 10th, and 12th grade who self-report their substance use behaviors over various prevalence periods: daily, past 30 days, past 12 months and lifetime. The survey also documents students' perception of harm, disapproval of use, and perceived availability of drugs. The survey results are released in the same year the data are collected.

From February 11 through March 14, 2020, the MTF survey investigators collected 11,821 surveys in 112 schools before data collection stopped prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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