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Monitoring the Future: US survey of the Youth

The MTF survey has measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes among adolescent students nationwide. The survey is funded by the NIDA, a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and conducted by the University of Michigan.

MTF survey has measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes among adolescent students nationwide.

An increase of the e-cigarette harmfulness perception among graders

Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey of drug use and attitudes among American 8th, 10th, and 12th graders continues to show encouraging news. However, it highlighted continuing concerns over the high rate of electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use and softening of attitudes around some types of drug use.

Smoking continues to drop, currently at its lowest rate since 1975

Survey participants report their drug use behaviors across three time periods: lifetime, past year, and past month. Overall, about 45,000 students from 382 public and private schools participated in the 2015 Monitoring the Future survey.

Daily use of cigarettesUse of e-cigarettesThe Good News

  • Cigarette smoking is dropping freely and has reached its lowest rate since 1975.
  • 8th and 10th graders who view regular e-cigarette use as harmful has increased since last year.

Daily cigarette smoking decreased to 1.3 percent among 8th graders, compared to 2.9 percent 5 years ago; to 3.0 percent among 10th graders, compared to 6.6 percent 5 years ago; and to 5.5 percent among high school seniors, down from 6.7 percent last year and 10.7 percent in 2010.

Areas of Concern

  • The use of e-cigarettes remains high among teens.

In fact, about 13 percent of eighth graders who use e-cigarettes said they did not know what was in the device they used. Furthermore, some products labeled nicotine-free may actually contain nicotine. Roughly twice as many boys as girls report using e-cigarettes (21.5 percent to 10.9 percent).
Substances vaporizedDr. Nora Volkow, NIDA Director, presents the main results and notices the encouraging decrease of smoking among graders. She comments on the possible drivers of such a significant reduction of cigarette smoking among teenagers. Prevention messages are of course the first driver, but the other one may be the availability of a wide diversity of products currently accessible to teenagers to take nicotine, among which e-cigarettes. Rates of e-cigarette use is, for example, higher than cigarette smoking, which is of concern.

Dr. Volkow also points out that researchers do not know the extent of the initiation to nicotine with e-cigarettes and the possible transition to regular cigarette smoking in the young population. This topics remains to be explored in future surveys.

Many teenagers admit they are unsure what they inhale

When asked what they inhaled the last time they used an e-cigarette, only about 20 percent said they were using nicotine. Most say they inhaled flavoring alone and many admitted they were unsure what they inhaled. There remains a certain diversity in the perception of the risk linked to the e-cigarette that has increased from last year and most of the teenagers using e-cigarettes do not know what they are taking.

As e-cigarettes are currently not regulated in the US, there is limited data on what chemicals are present in the e-liquids and no agreement on what needs to be displayed on the bottles. A significant effort is underway to show more transparency in the composition of e-liquids from the manufacturers side but a lot remains to be done in terms of information and of prevention.



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PhD in science and journalist for the Vaping Post. Specialised in scientific topics.