Teen Use Of Alcohol, Tobacco Falls To Historic Lows (But All The Media And The Feds Want To Talk About Is Pot)

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 18, 2013

    Adolescent consumption of alcohol and tobacco fell to historic lows while self-reported annual use of cannabis held steady, according to survey data released today by the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor — which has been sampling teens consumption of various licit and illicit substances since the mid-1970s.

    But you wouldn’t know these facts if you read today’s mainstream media headlines.

    For example, the accompanying headline of McClatchy’s wire story inaccurately claims that marijuana consumption among young people rose between 2011 and 2012, stating “Feds decry rising marijuana use among kids”, despite the fact that the title of the study’s own press release affirms “The rise in teen marijuana use stalls.”

    Other news outlets, such as PBS News Hour (in which I am quoted here) predictably highlight the federal government’s talking point that adolescents’ perception of pot’s risk potential is dipping (e.g., ’60 percent of 12th grade students do not view marijuana as harmful’). Unreported is the fact that this trend is is not new, but is rather an ongoing one. According to the University’s year-by-year data, teens’ perceptions regarding marijuana’s risks first began declining in the early 1990s — a time that predates the passage of statewide medical cannabis laws or more recent statewide depenalization/legalization laws. (Looking for an explanation for this trend? Try this: More and more teens are wising up to the fact that cannabis is not as equally dangerous as heroin, despite the federal government’s claims to the contrary.)

    Overlooked in the mainstream media’s reporting is that the use of both alcohol and tobacco among all grades surveyed has fallen consistently since the mid-1990s and now stands at all-time lows. (In fact, more teens now acknowledge using marijuana than cigarettes, the study found.) Teens are also finding alcohol to be less availabile and are far less likely to engage in binge drinking now than ever before.

    By contrast, teens self-reported annual use of cannabis has largely held steady since the late 1990s but remains elevated compared to the historic lows reported in the earlier that decade. (Present use levels, however, still remain well below the highs reported in the late 1970s.) Approximately 8 out of 10 12th graders surveyed said that marijuana was “fairly easy” or “very easy” to obtain, a percentage that has remained largely unchanged since 2009, but is well below previously reported highs circa the late 1990s.

    Nevertheless, federal officials are utilizing the latest University of Michigan data to once again sound the alarm about cannabis, stating that the cannabis ‘problem’ is even “worse” than the data suggests while the Drug Czar once again tries to misleadingly link long-term trends to the passage of recent changes in law.

    And what no public officials wish to acknowledge is the obvious elephant in the room. The reality that an increasing number of teens are steadily turning away from the legally regulated intoxicants alcohol and tobacco — a factoid that once again affirms that the most effective way to keep substances out of teens’ hands isn’t through criminal prohibition; it is through legalization, regulation, and public education. So why does the federal government (as well as the mainstream media) acknowledge the effectiveness of this strategy when it comes to booze and cigarettes, but continue to turn its back on these common sense principles when it comes to pot?

    43 responses to “Teen Use Of Alcohol, Tobacco Falls To Historic Lows (But All The Media And The Feds Want To Talk About Is Pot)”

    1. Galileo Galilei says:

      This all sounds like the same ol’ same ol’ alright. The last paragraph sums it all up nicely.

    2. closet smoker says:

      Answer to last question is varied and many. The government’s position that there is no acceptable medical use is mainly due to the government not accepting herbal and homeopathic medicine. We are being doctored by the old bleeders, surgeons, and chemists. In the late 1800s someone with connections figured out that there is money in chemical medicine, and that started the downward spin of herbal/homeopathic medicine. It has nearly been regulated out of existence. I don’t expect our so called ‘government’ to start making it any easier for homeopathic medicine, they made their bed a long time ago.

    3. mexweed says:

      Well, Paul, I know your question is ironic, we know the government is well paid in taxe$ to do whatever protects the $igarette companies “just a little longer” against what is going to happen to them anyway when cannabis legalization brings along the dreaded popularization of vaporizers and one-hitters permanently replacing their high-profit engine the pernicious H-ot B-urning O-verdose M-onoxide $igarette format.

      Since one oligop, Lorillard, has bought an e-cigarette company, it seems likely P Morris, Reynolds and others will do likewise, fine with me, live and let live.

    4. TheOracle says:

      Responsible use does reduce alcohol consumption, often replacing it as the preferred means of relaxation. Plus, most people do not smoke joints at the same rate as the average pack a day cigarette smoker. No way. In states where it’s legal, there is not a wave of people smoking 20 joints a day after work, and they surely are not allowed to toke during work hours, I’m sure. And, you don’t have to smoke because you can vaporize.

      On a related issue, it’s been in the news that the Congress passed a budget, supposed to be good for 2 years. Now legalize marijuana at the federal level, and take your federal share of the taxes, and then stay the fuck out of people’s personal/private lives, you know, just to make sure you really do have enough money.

      It’s money you didn’t have before, and you don’t have a way of coming up with this much money or else you’d be implementing it already. It’s instant tax-paying jobs both here and globally, excise & state & local tax revenue, intelligence routes for NGOs overseas, and then the savings in ending the war on pot as the peace dividend. And as far as the kiddies, they’ll get carded and will have to steal it off there parents, you know the usual shit they pull, or get some of age dumbass to get it for them, which won’t happen too often because the dupe will get sick and tired of taking the risk on them till they come of age. Feds should let the states decide the age for recreational adult cannabis, so I think 19 years of age recommended, just long enough for the tie to brats still in high school to be severed by work or college, 18 if in the military (active or reserve) or in Coast Guard.

      I don’t want anymore of these bullshit federal raids. They simply have to stop.

    5. TheOracle says:

      Oh yeah, I forgot to rant that the UN needs to shut the fuck up about international treaty prohibition on legalizing cannabis. Two US states legalized and the UN couldn’t do shit to stop it. It happened. It’s history. Uruguay legalized. If the UN isn’t giving the US shit for Colorado and Washington then they have no credibility giving Uruguay a tongue lashing for it. They can’t do anything else. Talk, talk, talk. Bitch, bitch, bitch, and it ain’t gonna undo legalization, bitches. You got European countries the Mujicas mentioned that it was leaked about there being support building within the UN from Netherlands, Scandinavians, Latin American countries do reevaluate, CHANGE, the international prohibitions, but I gotta tell ya that is way too long. UN needs to ignore legalization and just get their asses in gear and drafting all the changes lifting the dumbass prohibitions on cannabis internationally.

    6. massvocals says:

      I would like to answer the question why the federal government refuses to address ? its because of the billions and thousands of jobs in prisons and court houses its because they have created a business out of the drug war lie and they all should hung form the trees for us all to see

    7. RUT says:

      “Figures do not lie people do” The dishonesty from government officials should not surprise anyone. This dishonesty allows them to keep arresting people for nothing. Then they want to act like their saving children, the same children they later ruin the lives of as they get older with an arrest record over nothing! These people in government could not take any longer to fix this problem if they wanted to. Remember these are the same people who want you to trust them to read your emails. It should not be long before they want to open your mail scan the contents and seal it back up and send it on to you. The powers that be want every thing to be based on a memo, not flat out repealing these dishonest laws. The officials who are giving interviewers this line of propaganda about the University of MICH. report are laying the ground work for an excuse to retreat from relaxing currant laws. These are carefully crafted talking points.The main stream media are more like cheering squads for one political party or another these days. They do not have enough time in their segments to get all the facts out. The media just wants to sound the alarm to warn you of a new danger they have found.

    8. Jj72 says:

      True true. It’s one track minded ness. Whereitslegal.com is for sale btw

    9. brentandrews says:

      Look at it this way, Paul: You are a mainstream journalist and you have been running the bust stories straight from the police for decades, making friends with cops, reporting without a second thought about stings, asset forfeiture, and peaceful citizens being raided by militants over plants; you either hate yourself, consider your whole career a failure, or you find the tiniest drug menace hand-hold and you cling to that wall of shame. You warn of schitzophernia! The munches! Gateways! and continue parroting the police, because that is all you have ever amounted to, or will. You stood for nothing – and fell for anything. A lot of cops are in the same boat.

    10. Ray says:

      Our politicians need to smarten up as our youth have. Make it legal and we turn it into a regulated product similar to cigarettes and alcohol with a whole lot less risk. Senator Greg Ball in New York sent me a letter saying that marijuana is a gateway drug. He will never support marijuana. This is bull, I’m a middle aged cancer survivor who has a lot of pain, but my only (legal) relief is oxycodone. What do I want with this pharmaceutical heroin? The answer is nothing, but Greg Ball says that I am denied marijuana because I will move on to harder drugs. Yet I am given opiates from the hospital like candy. Really? I am actually now opiate free thanks to cannabis, my best pain free days are when I can relax and inhale.
      Teens today are to smart for this outdated bunch of misleading lies. Pot was around when I was in high school just as it is today. Perscription pills are what scare me as a parent not weed, we have this all wrong. How about synthetic pot, why is this even necessary when the real, safe, proven stuff available. Sorry for the ranting but it’s a frustrating time for a New Yorker with no legal access