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Decrease in Alcohol and Tobacco Use Among Teenagers Despite Mental Health Concerns


According to a recent study, fewer teenagers are smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol compared to two years ago. In October, the Washington Department of Health conducted its biannual “Healthy Youth Survey” of students in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12 from over 1,000 schools across the state. The survey is both anonymous and voluntary and asks a wide range of questions related to overall health, providing invaluable information for communities in the state of Washington. The results, while showing promise in the areas of underage alcohol and cigarette use, also indicates that many teens struggle with mental health issues. The survey demonstrated that a significant number of students had seriously considered suicide in the past year. Furthermore, the study showed that more secondary school students have a relaxed perspective on marijuana and do not consider using it “risky” – the lowest number of students since the state first started conducting the studies.

Kevin W. Quigley, the Secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services, says “It’s good to celebrate that fewer teens are using alcohol and tobacco, but it’s clear many teens need more support from the adults in their lives and from friends to make healthy choices and cope with challenges” (Port Orchard Independent, 2013). According to the Healthy Youth Survey, cigarette smoking has decreased among all grades. Approximately 10 percent of 10th graders stated they had smoked at least one cigarette in the previous 30 days, showing a significant decrease from 13 % in 2010 and 25% in 1999. About 50,000 youth smoke cigarettes in the state of Washington, with roughly 40 starting every day. Teens are also finding other methods to get their nicotine fix, such as dipping tobacco, cigars, and hookahs. While there is still work to be done in tobacco prevention and control efforts, the results are encouraging to state officials.

Though the survey suggests a similar decrease, the scale of alcohol use in teenagers remains alarming. Over the last decade, Washington has made the prevention of underage drinking a public health priority. 11,000 fewer students are drinking than in 2010; however, with an estimated 115,000 youth who currently drink, the problem remains widespread. The data states the percentages of teens that drank alcohol in the past 30 days: 12% of 8th graders, 23% of 10th graders, and 36% of 12th graders. Additionally, the numbers of 10th and 12th graders who smoke marijuana is almost double that of cigarettes.

Equally alarming are the Healthy Youth statistics concerning teens’ mental health. In the past year, roughly 8% of 8th and 10th graders attempted suicide. Around 100,000 kids aged 12-17 indicated that they had seriously considered suicide, which comes out to about one in every six students. One in four teens said they felt sad or hopeless for two weeks in a row, causing them to discontinue their involvement in usual activities; more precisely, 26 % of 8th graders, 31% of 10th graders, and 30% of students in 12th grade. Although these numbers have remained the same in the last decade, they demonstrate that teens need more psychological and emotional support, whether it is from parents, counselors, mentors, or educators.

The study is a statewide collaboration of the Department of Health, Department of Social and Health Services, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Liquor Control Board, Family Policy Council, and Department of Commerce. The results help the state assess and construct youth programs in areas of need. Besides substance abuse and mental health, the study touched on topics such as sexual behavior and attitudes toward schoolwork. In fact, the data shows that teens are skipping class less frequently and showing a greater commitment to their education. Studies like these are indispensable in learning about the health of today’s youth. We must protect and cultivate our teenagers, as they represent the workforce and leaders of the future.


Works Cited

Port Orchard Independent. (2013, March 15). Fewer teens use tobacco and alcohol; many need support for depressive feelings . Retrieved March 20, 2013, from Port Orchard Independent:



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A staff writer here at T4A, Roscoe enjoys investigating and writing on a variety of topics concerning addiction and mental health. His articles cover everything from the latest news stories to his own experiences with addiction and/or mental illness. He is a recovering alcoholic from New York, NY who is grateful not only to be sober, but also to have a life back. His interests include reading, writing, running, and anything involving the outdoors. Now that he is sober, he hopes to graduate college in the next few years with a degree in Business. He strives daily maintain a positive attitude and to work on himself; to make up for all of his past wrongdoings, and to give back by helping those who are struggling. Roscoe cherishes the opportunity to share his thoughts and ideas through the T4A blog, and welcomes any sort of feedback from readers!

Filed under: Addiction, Alcohol and Drugs, Conditions and Disorders, Mental Illness, Research, Substance Abuse · Tags: alcohol, cigarettes, depression, health, healthy choices, marijuana, mental health, nicotine, public health, substance abuse, suicide, teenagers, tobacco, Underage Drinking, Washington

  • Edea Krammer

    Parents hold the responsibility for these kids… If I have to say the root cause of these problems has something to do with the parents in the first place… is operated by Recovery Brands LLC, a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers, Inc.
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