Tobacco Alcohol and Youth - Attitudes About Using Alcoholand Tobacco
10th data population 12th
Why They Start Using
There are a number of reasons why teenagers start using alcohol and tobacco. It may be to appear cool or rebellious, or they may succumb to peer pressure. Young women may be particularly susceptible to these pressures, according to some researchers. Author and lecturer Shannon McLinden points out that girls go through a tremendous emotional and hormonal change around the time they enter seventh grade. "The change comes at a time when being your own person and trying to stand on your own feet is really important" (Laura Alys Ward, "Study: Peer Pressure Worse for Teen Girls," Daily Star Online, January 27, 2001, http://www.thedailystar.com/news/stories/2001/01/27/peer.html).
The study cited in the article was conducted by Bruce Simons-Morton and his colleagues for the National Institutes of Health. The researchers surveyed thousands of sixth- to eighth-grade students to determine the effect of peer and parent influences on adolescent substance use. They found that peer pressure was strongly associated with drinking for girls but not for boys, and that adolescents whose parents were involved in their children's lives were far less likely to smoke or drink (Health Education and Behavior, vol. 28., no. 1, February 2001). Findings from a 2003 nationwide survey of thirteen- to seventeen-year-olds by the Roper Youth Report support these data. Sixty-nine percent of respondents cited parents as the most influential factor in their decision to smoke and drink or not.
The second-most important factor influencing a young person's decision to smoke or drink, according to the Roper Youth Report, was best friends. The attitudes of one's peer group can hold tremendous sway over a young person's alcohol and tobacco choices. Findings from the Simons-Morton research agree with this conclusion, reporting that teens with friends who smoked and drank were nine times more likely to participate in these behaviors than those with friends who did not smoke and drink.
|Alcohol||Been drunkb||5+ drinksd||Cigarettes||Smokeless tobaccoa,c|
|a8th and 10th grades only: Data based on two of four forms; population is one-half of population indicated.|
|b12th grade only: Data based on two of six forms; population is two-sixths of population indicated.|
|c12th grade only: Data based on one of six forms; population is one-sixth of population indicated.|
|dThis measure refers to having five or more drinks in a row in the last two weeks.|
When They Start Using
First use of alcohol and tobacco happens rather early. According to the 2002 Final Report of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the average age of the first use of cigarettes was 15.4 years in 1998. The average age of first use of alcohol was 16.3 years.
The average age of a first-time user of alcohol has dropped in recent years. In the 1980s the average age at first consumption of alcohol fluctuated between 16.6 and 17.1 years. In 1992 it stood at 16.9, from which it has decreased almost steadily, according to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. More recent data suggests it is not uncommon for initiation to happen much earlier. According to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Report, 29.1% of students had first consumed alcohol (more than a few sips) before age thirteen.