Monitoring the Future Survey Results Show Alarming Rise in Teen Vaping

January 18, 2019

For four and a half decades, the NIDA-funded Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey has provided researchers and policymakers with an invaluable window into the drug use and attitudes of America’s 12th-graders, with 8th and 10th graders added to the survey in 1991. The results of the 2018 MTF survey, released today (December 17), contain a mix of encouraging news and warning signals. Notably, the survey this year contained a major shock: a stunning rise in use of nicotine in vaping devices since 2017. Although there have been few significant changes over the past few years in teen marijuana use, use of most other illicit drugs by middle and high schoolers is at historic lows—this includes use of opioids, at a time when the opioid crisis is ravaging older sectors of the population.


Between January 2017 and January 2018, the percentage of 12th graders who reported vaping nicotine (not flavoring or other substances) during the past 30 days nearly doubled, from 11 percent to nearly 21 percent; among 10th graders, the increase was almost as great, from 8.2 percent to 16.1 percent. These are—by far—the biggest one-year increases ever seen for any substance in the history of the MTF survey. Previously, the largest increase for any substance in 12th grade was seen between 1975 and 1976, when past-month marijuana use jumped from 27.1 to 32.2 percent. Teens report they are vaping “flavoring only” in higher numbers as well, although it is likely that many young users do not know what is in the liquid they are vaping.


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