ALCOHOL, TOBACCO, AND OTHER ILLICIT DRUG USE
BY MARYLAND YOUTH
The most essential aspect of the biennial MAS for program providers and planners is the information it provides on rates of substance use by Marylands young people. Table 3.1 presents the 1998 findings on the extent of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use by the States sixth, eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders. Adolescents at these grade levels were asked to indicate if they had ever used each of twenty-two substances and, if so, how often they had used those substances over the last year and in the last thirty days. These statistics are also reported for each local school system in Appendix D.
As in previous administrations of the MAS, substance use patterns reported by students provide insight into societal values and mores. Parents and other care-giving adults serve as role models and arbiters of right and wrong. Not surprisingly, the substance use behavior of young people is much like that of the adult population. For example, alcoholic beverages are legally manufactured, advertised, sold, and consumed by the adult population. They are a part of many important social occasions. They are widely associated with pleasures, good times, and happiness. Most young people are exposed to alcohol in their early years by family members at parties or special celebrations. It is not unusual for restaurants or families to serve young people imitation alcoholic drinks. However, as an age restricted privilege, unsupervised drinking functions as a status symbol of maturity. As a recipe for successful socializing, alcohol is a common ingredient of young peoples parties and celebrations. The 1998 survey data clearly show the results of this anticipatory socialization. By the twelfth grade, almost three-quarters (71.4%) of Marylands youth have drunk alcohol outside their homes. Almost as many (65.6%) say they have used some form of alcohol in the last year. National statistics reported in the National Institute on Drug Abuses Monitoring the Future (1999) study show that 68.2% of high school seniors in 1975 said they used alcohol in the past thirty days. In Maryland, only 48% of seniors in 1998 class did so.
Smoking is also an acceptable adult behavior widely emulated by young people. Current survey findings show cigarettes have been used by 48.9% of the twelfth graders in the sample. More than one-quarter (28.6%) said that they smoked sometime in the past month, somewhat less than the 1975 high school class (36.7%).
Marijuana is an illicit drug with a long history of use both as an intoxicant and as a medicinal substance. Today, American attitudes toward this substance are ambivalent. Many States have legalized marijuana as a prescription drug; as recently as November 1999, Maine citizens voted on whether to legalize marijuana through Ballot Measure Question 2. Previous generations (parents and grandparents of current adolescents) have used marijuana and gone on to lead legitimate and productive lives. Many of our nations most distinguished citizens admit to experimentation or recreational use. These adult role models undermine the credibility of drug use prevention messages in regard to marijuana and offer young people another opportunity to demonstrate their maturity and independence. According to the 1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 5.1% (11.1 million people) of the population ages 12 and older are current marijuana users making marijuana the most commonly used illegal drug. Data from the Monitoring the Future (1999) study show that 27.1% of the 1975 high school seniors said they used marijuana in the past 30 days. In Maryland, 24.2% of the current senior class did so, a decrease of 3.2 percentage points over 1996 usage.
Survey findings presented in Table 3.1 show that those substances which are illegal for all age groups and segments of society are used much less by young people as well. For illicit drugs, twelfth graders were most likely to have tried LSD (13.7%), other hallucinogens (mescaline, shrooms) (10.2%), and amphetamines (diet pills, uppers, bennies) (10.1%). However, of these substances, twelfth grader use in the last 30 days is reported by only 4.8%, 3.1%, and 4.3% respectively of responding students.
This chapter presents an analysis of substance users in terms of frequency of use, race and ethnicity, gender, and age at students first substance experience. These analyses are designed to provide policy makers, program planners, and practitioners with information that will help target their prevention/education messages and programs to assure the greatest impact.
Occasional Drinking: Drank alcohol on 1 or 2 occasions in the last 30 days
Frequent Drinking: Drank alcohol on 3 or more occasions in the last 30 days
Heavy Drinking: Drank alcohol on 6 or more occasions in the last 30 days
Binge Drinking Drank 5 or more servings of alcohol on the same occasion
Asian/Pacific Islanders: This group is collectively referred to as "Asian" in the remainder of this chapter and document.
Extent of Use
Alcohol remains the most widely used of the substances surveyed (Table 3.1). Almost three-quarters (71.4%) of twelfth grade respondents reported having at least tried an alcoholic beverage. 65.6% reported they drank sometime during the past year while almost half (48.4%) said they drank during the past month. While a relatively small percentage of the sixth grade respondents (17.0%) indicated they had tried alcohol, 41.7% of eighth graders and 62.7% of tenth graders have done so. These data show that it is not only the seniors who were recent drinkers. A considerable number of the eighth and tenth graders reported use of some type of alcoholic beverage during the last 30 days as well (26.6% and 42.9%, respectively).
Many Maryland young people report fairly heavy alcohol consumption, especially high school seniors and tenth graders. One-third of seniors (33.8%) and one quarter (26.4%) of the tenth grade respondents say they drank five or more servings on the same occasion (i.e., binge drinking) at least one time in the last 30 days (Table 3.1).
Students were asked to indicate the extent of their use of two categories of alcoholic drinks. Beer/wine/wine coolers made up one group and any type of liquor made up the other. Youth were more likely to consume alcohol in the beer category than in the liquor category. Among the twelfth grade respondents, 37.8% reported they drank liquor in the last 30 days while almost half (45.2%) reported they drank beer. A similar choice pattern can be seen in the sixth, eighth, and tenth grade populations: 8.3% beer vs. 4.1% liquor for sixth graders; 24.4% beer vs. 16.8% liquor for eighth graders; and 39.8% beer vs. 33.1% liquor for tenth graders (Table 3.1).
Among those who had tried beer at least once in their lives, 41.5% of seniors, 39.7% of tenth graders, 30.9% of eighth graders, and 19.7% of sixth graders report drinking it three or more times in the last 30 days (Figure 3.1). A smaller, but substantial number, report drinking beer on at least six or more occasions in the last 30 days. A quarter of the twelfth graders (25.2%), 23.5% of the tenth graders, 17.4% of eighth graders, and 10.4% of sixth graders say that they drank beer this often.
The use of liquor, such as whisky, rum, or vodka, although less than beer or wine, follows a similar pattern. Of those who drank, almost one quarter (23.7%) of sixth grade respondents, 30.6% of eighth graders, and a third of tenth and twelfth graders (34.7% and 33.9% respectively) report drinking liquor on three or more occasions in the last 30 days (Figure 3.1).
Heavy drinking of liquor also follows this pattern. Among respondents who had some type of liquor on six or more occasions in the last 30 days (Figure 3.1), 11.l% were sixth graders, 15.9% were eighth graders, 19.3% were tenth graders, and 19.2% were twelfth graders.
Characteristics of Twelfth Graders Who Have Used Alcohol
Table 3.2 presents the proportion of twelfth grade males and females who have ever used beer or liquor and the proportion who are occasional and frequent users. Survey findings show that across all types of use (ever used, occasional use, and frequent use), females are somewhat more likely to have used beer or wine than liquor.
The percentage of females who are occasional users of beer or liquor slightly exceeds the percentage of males (beer: 53.5% female vs. 46.5% male; liquor: 50.6% female vs. 49.4% male). A higher percentage of males (52.4% liquor and 50.7% beer and wine) than females (47.6% liquor and 49.3% beer) have ever used beer or liquor. Males also outnumber females as frequent drinkers (beer: 59.1% male vs. 40.9% female; and liquor: 61.5% male vs. 38.5% female). Finally, the gender differences among the binge drinker population of high school seniors show that of those who had five or more servings of alcohol on the same occasion, 53.6% were male and 46.4% were female.
While survey data indicate widespread use of alcohol among twelfth graders, there are racial/ethnic differences in the proportions who have tried alcoholic beverages. White and Hispanic respondents had the highest percentages of those who have tried some type of alcohol at least once (78.0% and 73.7%, respectively), followed by African Americans (61.8%), and Asians (57.3%).
There are differences across racial/ethnic lines among respondents who are categorized as occasional drinkers (one to two times in the last 30 days) of beer and liquor. Hispanic students were most likely (31.6%) to report occasional use of liquor while African American students were least likely (20.8%) to report occasional use of liquor; White and Asian twelfth graders had the same rate (29.7%) of occasional use of liquor. The pattern is different for occasional use of beer. Asian twelfth graders were the mostly likely (27.7%) to report occasional use of beer, followed by White students (23.8%), African American students (23.1%), and Hispanic students (21.5%) (Table 3.3).
For frequent use of alcohol¾ those who drank at least three or more times in the last 30 days¾ the patterns among ethnic groups remained constant across beer and liquor. Hispanic twelfth grade drinkers represented the largest group of frequent drinkers, followed by White students, African American students, and Asian students (Table 3.3). More than half (53.0%) of Hispanic students who drank were frequent beer drinkers, followed by White students (47.5%), African American students (27.1%), and Asian students (26.9%). For liquor, 43.8% of Hispanic respondents who drank represented frequent liquor drinkers, followed by Whites (33.9%), African Americans (32.0%), and Asians (21.4%).
The racial/ethnic pattern remains the same for frequent binge drinkers (five or more drinks in one sitting at least three or more times in the past month). Hispanic twelfth graders represented the largest group of frequent binge drinkers (46.3%), followed by Whites (42.0%), African Americans (18.9%), and Asians (18.5%). These data are for any type of alcohol (beer/wine or liquor).
Age at First Use
Most young people who tried
alcohol did so for the first time between 13 and 16 years of age. Among the
twelfth grade sample reporting that they tried beer, about a third (32.7%) say
they first drank it when they were 13 to 14, and another third (37.4%) say that
they first tried alcohol between ages 15 and 16. Only a small percentage of
respondents indicate that they had their first drink of beer before age 10 (7.5%)
or after age 17 (9.9%). As with beer, most students had their first liquor
drink between the ages of 13 and 16. However, more of them (45.9%) said
that their first experience was a little later, at 15 to 16, and fewer (3.9%) report that their first experience was before age 10 (Figure 3.2).
Age at first use does not differ by gender. Among beer drinkers, almost two-thirds of the males (64.8%) and three quarters of the females (75.4%) in twelfth grade had their first beer drink when they were between 13 and 16 years of age. Few respondents said they had their first drink of beer/wine/wine coolers after 17 years of age (10.5% males vs. 9.3% females). However, more males (9.7%) than females (5.2%) report they had their first drink before age 10.
The same pattern occurs for the twelfth graders who report having used liquor at some time. About three quarters of the males (72.2%) and slightly more of the females (80.4%) had their first liquor drink between the ages of 13 and 16. Few did so when they were 17 or older (13.7% males vs. 10.6% females). In addition, more males (5.3%) than females (2.4%) report they had their first drink before age 10.
As indicated in Figures
3.3 and 3.4 (displaying data by for all racial/ethnic groups), most first experiences
with alcoholic beverages were between the ages of 13 and 16. However, these
data show some differences in age at first use between ethnic groups. For beer/wine,
African Americans were most likely among their peers to start drinking at an
early age; 21.6% of African American twelfth graders reported they first used
beer/wine at age 12 or younger. Hispanics comprised the largest group of twelfth
graders who indicated they had their first experience with beer/wine at age
10 or younger (11.4%). For liquor, 16.7% of Hispanic twelfth graders first used
liquor at age 12 or younger; 8.0% were age 10 or younger. Across all ethnic
groups, a large number of twelfth graders first used beer/wine or liquor between
the ages of 15-16; however, Hispanic twelfth graders were more likely to first
use beer/wine at ages 13-14 (44.6%) than their peers. A large number of Asian
and African American twelfth graders who drank did not begin using beer/wine
or liquor until they were 17 or older. For beer/wine, 15.3% of Asian twelfth
graders and 16.2% of African American twelfth graders began drinking at age
17 or older. For liquor, 16.4% of Asian twelfth graders and 17.8% of African
American twelfth graders began drinking at age 17 or older. This represents
a much larger group of students
who started drinking at an older age than their White and Hispanic peers.
Comparison of Occasional and Frequent Drinkers
Table 3.2 (on page 15) shows that there are only small gender differences among those who have tired alcohol, with the exception of frequent drinkers. For frequent drinkers, males outnumber females by at least 18% across both liquor and beer/wine. Among binge drinkers (five or more servings of alcohol on the same occasion), males outnumber females (males 53.6% vs. females 46.6%).
When occasional and frequent drinkers are compared by race/ethnicity (Table 3.3), occasional drinkers across all groups are most likely to drink liquor. For frequent drinkers, Asian, White, and Hispanic twelfth graders are more likely to drink beer/wine than liquor. In contrast, African American twelfth graders are more likely to drink liquor (32.0%) than beer/wine (27.1%).
In comparing occasional and frequent drinkers by age at first use of alcohol (Figures 3.5 and 3.6), youth who are classified as frequent drinkers are more likely to have started drinking at a younger age. For twelfth grade frequent drinkers who used beer, 28.4% began drinking at or before age 12. For twelfth graders who used liquor, 18.7% of frequent drinkers began drinking at or before the age of 12. Comparatively, fewer occasional drinkers began using beer (14.6%) or liquor (8.3%) before the age of 12¾ roughly half of the frequent drinker rate. The data presented in these two figures also indicate that a large portion of twelfth grade frequent drinkers begin drinking before the age of 15 (beer 67.8%; liquor 55.3%). The percentage of youth who began drinking before age 15 is much less for occasional drinkers (beer 46.4%; liquor 37.5%).
Comparison to 1996 Survey Data
The percentage of sixth graders who had ever used any form of alcohol, used any form within the last 30 days, or used within the last 12 months increased from 1996 levels. In 1996, 7.9% of sixth graders reported they had used any form of alcohol in the last 30 days while in 1998, 9.1% reported alcohol use in the last 30 days. Across all grade levels, there was an increase from 1996 to 1998 for use of alcohol six or more times in the last 30 days (heavy drinking), for both beer/wine and liquor (as reported in Figure 3.1). The increases represented as much as 5 percentage points from 1996 levels (tenth graders who drank liquor six or more times in the last 30 days).
Asian twelfth graders increased their occasional use of both beer/wine and liquor from 1996. In 1996, 25.5% of Asian twelfth graders reported occasionally using beer/wine while 27.7% reported occasionally using beer/wine in 1998. Similarly, 24.3% of Asian twelfth graders occasionally used liquor in 1996 while 29.7% occasionally used liquor in 1998. For frequent drinkers, there was an increase in the percentage of White twelfth graders for beer/wine and liquor from 1996 levels while Hispanic twelfth graders had an increase in frequent use of beer. The increase in Hispanic twelfth graders who were frequent beer drinkers was quite substantial (33.7% in 1996 vs. 53.0% in 1998). Hispanic youth also experienced an increase in the percentage of twelfth graders who began drinking beer/wine or liquor at age 10 or younger. In 1996, only 5.9% of Hispanic twelfth graders who drank reported they began drinking beer/wine at age 10 or younger; in 1998, 11.4% reported they began drinking at age 10 or younger. For liquor, only 3% of Hispanic twelfth graders who drank began drinking at age 10 or less in 1996 while 8.0% reported they began drinking at this age in 1998. For Asian twelfth graders who drank, only 4.4% began drinking beer or wine at age 10 or less in 1996. In 1998, this percentage had increased to 6.5%.
While males experienced a decrease in the percentages of occasional drinkers of beer/wine and liquor between 1996 and 1998, there was a slight increase in the percentage of males who had ever used beer/wine or liquor among twelfth graders. There was also an increase in the percentage of twelfth grade males who frequently used beer/wine (58.6% 1996 vs. 59.1% 1998) or liquor (58.8% 1996 vs. 61.5% 1998). Although male occasional users of alcohol decreased between 1996 and 1998, female occasional users increased, for both beer/wine and liquor. The increase was more dramatic for liquor (45.4% 1996 vs. 50.6% 1998).
Extent of Use
Cigarettes are the second most used substance by Marylands youth (Table 3.1 on page 12). By twelfth grade, slightly less than half (48.9%) of the survey respondents have tried cigarettes. As with other substances, most young people first tried them between sixth and eighth grades. One third (33.2%) of the eighth graders reported having tried cigarettes compared to only 10.7% of the sixth grade sample. Survey findings reveal that the percentage of respondents who appear to be current smokers increases by grade level. About 14.8% of the eighth graders, 23.9% of tenth graders, and 28.6% of twelfth graders say they smoked cigarettes in the last 30 days. Very few sixth graders (4.2%) say they are recent smokers.
Of those who smoke, most recent smokers are casual smokers, smoking five or fewer cigarettes each day. The percentages of this type of smoker remain fairly constant across grade levels (Figure 3.7). Of those who smoke, casual smoking is reported by 30.8% of the sixth graders, 31.0% of eighth graders, 32.6% of tenth graders, and 27.8% of twelfth graders.
A number of recent smokers may be classified as regular smokers, consuming between one-half pack and one pack per day. Unlike casual smokers, the percentage of surveyed youth reporting this type of behavior increased by grade. Regular smoking was reported by 15.2% of the sixth grade sample, 25.7% of the eighth graders, 34.7% of the tenth graders, and 42.8% of the twelfth graders.
A small number of respondents indicated that they smoke more than one package of cigarettes daily. The percentages of these heavy smokers decreases with grade level. Of those who smoke, heavy smoking was reported by 8.6% of the sixth grade sample, 7.8% of the eighth graders, and 6.9% of tenth and twelfth graders.
Smoking is a difficult habit to break, and the difficulty increases with the amount smoked. This is evidenced by the responses of regular smokers in the survey. Within this population, 47.1% of the eighth graders, 54.9% of the tenth graders, and 59.1% of the twelfth graders say that they tried to quit smoking but couldnt. Casual smokers have much less difficulty. About 34% of eighth graders, 36.8% of tenth graders, and 39.9% of twelfth graders who are casual smokers say they were unable to quit.
Characteristics of Twelfth Graders Who Have Ever Smoked Cigarettes
Figure 3.8 shows that of twelfth graders who have ever used cigarettes, approximately half are males (51.8%) and half are females (48.2%). These percentages characterize the casual smokers as well. The rate difference widens for regular smokers where 58.0% are males and 42.0% are females.
The percentage of each racial/ethnic
group who say that they have at least experimented with smoking varies considerably
(Figure 3.9). Except for the sixth grade, Whites represent the largest percentage
at each grade level, comprising 35.5% of eighth graders, 54.7% of tenth graders,
and 57.4% of twelfth graders who say they smoked cigarettes one or more times.
Hispanics are the group with the next highest percentage of those who have smoked.
10.9% of Hispanic sixth graders, 32.4% of Hispanic eighth graders, 46.6% of
Hispanic tenth graders, and 54.6% of Hispanic twelfth graders indicated they
used cigarettes at least once. Asian and African American respondents have the
lowest overall percentages of cigarette experimenters for eighth, tenth, and
twelfth graders. Asian students represented the lowest overall percentages of
cigarette experimenters at the sixth grade (4.8%) and eighth grade (17.9%) levels
while African American students represented the lowest overall percentages of
tenth grade (33.5%) and twelfth grade (39.1%) level. At the sixth grade level, surveyed African American students had the highest percentage of students who had smoked (13.0%).
First Use of Cigarettes
Age at First Use
Most young people who try cigarettes do so in their early teens (Table 3.4). Few twelfth graders (7.2%) report they had their first cigarette when they were 17 or older. In the twelfth grade sample of those who say they tried cigarettes, more than half (60.8%) began their experimentation between the ages of 13 and 16. Almost a third (32.0%), however, had their first smoking experience before they were 13 years of age, and 9.2% reported first smoking at 10 or younger.
Survey results show that for age at first use, more males (11.2%) than females (7.1%) first smoked at age 10 or younger (Table 3.4); males also slightly outnumber females in the 15-16 age group (24.8% vs. 24.0%). Female first time users outnumber males in the 11-12 age range (24.1% vs. 21.6%), and the 13-14 age range (37.5% vs. 35.4%).
African Americans in the twelfth grade sample have the lowest percentage of those who tried cigarettes (33.2%) (see Figure 3.9); those who did try cigarettes tried relatively early. Table 3.5 shows that 10.5% of the African American respondents who tried cigarettes did so when they were 10 years of age or younger. White respondents represented the largest group who tried cigarettes between the ages of 11-12 (27.1%). Asians were the latest starters, with 48.3% starting between the ages of 13-14. As a group, Hispanics are more likely to start smoking between the ages of 13-16 than at a younger or older age. More than half of the surveyed youth in each ethnic group say they first smoked between the ages of 13 and 16 (71.8% Asian, 64.0% African American, 59.7% White, 71.1% Hispanic). Of all groups, White respondents had the largest percentage of youth who started smoking at the eighth, tenth, and twelfth grade levels.
Comparison of Regular, Casual, and Nonsmokers
As indicated in Figure 3.8 (page 24), the percentage of casual smokers who are males and females is relatively equal. However, an examination of first use ages for casual smokers by gender (Table 3.6) reveals that a higher percentage of females than males say they started smoking at age 12 or younger (30.8% vs. 24.1%). The gender difference reverses for casual smokers who say they began at age 15 or older (37.1% males vs. 26.4% females).
The gender pattern for regular smokers differs from that of casual smokers. As indicated previously, a higher percentage of males than females are regular smokers (Figure 3.8). A higher percent of the regular smoker males (19.4%) than females (13.3%) began at age 15 or older (Table 3.6). Regular smoker males are more likely to start smoking at age 10 or younger than females (18.3% vs. 12.0%) while female regular smokers are more likely to start smoking between the ages of 11-14 than males (74.8% vs. 62.3%).
Among those who say that they used cigarettes (Table 3.7), African Americans have the highest percentage of casual smokers (39.3%) followed by Hispanics (34.5%). White (25.3%) and Asian twelfth graders (22.9%) are less likely to be casual smokers than African American or Hispanic twelfth graders. For regular smokers, the racial/ethnic distribution is the reverse of casual smokers. The group with the highest percentage of regular smokers is White (49.9%), followed by Asians (26.4%). Smaller percentages of Hispanic (17.4%) and African American (16.9%) twelfth graders say they smoke at least one half pack of cigarettes daily. Except for Whites, there are too few cases to evaluate age at first use of smokers in each racial/ethnic category for the casual and regular smoker populations. A high percentage of White casual smokers (41.9%) say they began to smoke between 13 and 14 years of age. For White regular smokers, 15.4% began smoking at age 10 or younger, with an additional 33.3% beginning smoking between the ages of 11 and 12.
The survey also included questions about cigarette purchase. One question asked how young smokers acquire cigarettes. Of all twelfth graders who had smoked, 28.6% (Table 3.1 on page 12) did so in the past month. Of this group, almost half (48.9%) say they most often obtain their cigarettes by purchasing them in convenience stores or supermarkets (Table 3.8). Youth were also likely to have borrowed them from someone else (17.8%) or to have had someone else buy cigarettes for them (17.7%). There is a difference in how young people acquire cigarettes depending upon whether they are casual or regular smokers. Not surprisingly, 64.5% of regular smokers reported they bought cigarettes themselves, compared to just under half (48.2%) of the casual smokers. Casual and regular smokers are also likely to obtain cigarettes from someone else who buys them (22.9% vs. 19.9%). Casual smokers are more likely than regular smokers to borrow cigarettes from someone else (13.5% vs.1.3%).
The second purchase behavior question asked whether respondents were ever required to show proof of age when buying cigarettes during the last 30 days (Table 3.9). Slightly more than a third (37.3%) of all smokers said that they were asked to show proof of age; however, 32.4% were not. Again, data reveal there is a difference between the casual and regular smokers. Regular smokers were more likely than casual smokers to be asked to show proof of age (47.6% vs. 41.5%). This may reflect the larger number of purchases made by the regular smokers. Casual smokers were more likely (22.2%) than regular smokers (11.6%) to not buy their cigarettes in a store.
Comparison to 1996 Survey Data
For some smoking measures, a decrease in youth participating in smoking was observed. For others, the number of youth increased. One finding of note is that the percentage of regular and heavy smokers increased (almost doubled) across all grade levels from 1996 to 1998. The proportion of casual smokers, however, decreased across all grade levels. The proportion of males who have ever used, casually used, or regularly used cigarettes also increased from 1996, although increases were minimal (e.g., 50.5% 1996 vs. 51.8% 1998 ever used; 51.0% 1996 vs. 51.8% 1998 casual use; 55.9% 1996 vs. 58.0% 1998 regular use).
When survey data are examined by racial/ethnic distinctions, some changes from 1996 to 1998 are apparent. First, the proportion of African American twelfth graders who reported being a "casual" smoker increased from 1996 levels (31.7% 1996 vs. 39.3% 1998). For regular smokers (one half pack or more in last 30 days), increases were seen across all twelfth grade ethnic groups (Asian, African American, White, and Hispanic). The largest increase of regular smokers from 1996 to 1998 was for White twelfth graders (32.3% 1996 vs. 49.9% 1998).
Among casual users, male twelfth graders started smoking at a younger age than was found in the 1996 survey. In 1998, 8.9% of twelfth grade males began smoking at age 10 or younger (1998) compared to 4.9% in 1996. More males who were casual smokers also started smoking at ages 11 to 12 than in 1996 (15.2% 1998 vs. 10.6% 1996). For female casual smokers, more twelfth grade females began smoking at ages 11 and 12 (28.1%) than in 1996 (13.2%). For regular users, there was an increase in the number of males and females who began smoking between the ages of 11 to 12 (males 28.9% 1998 vs. 25.6% 1996; females 35.2% 1998 vs. 25.6% 1996).
The percentage of twelfth grade smokers who did not buy their cigarettes in a store increased from 16.4% in 1996 to 24.8% in 1998. This suggests that youth are obtaining their cigarettes increasingly from other sources, which is supported by the 1998 survey data. There were increases in the percentages of twelfth graders who obtained their cigarettes from vending machines, other people, through borrowing, theft, and other ways. Interestingly, casual smokers decreased and regular smokers showed no change in the proportion of twelfth graders who borrowed cigarettes from someone else when 1998 data are compared to 1996 data.
Occasional Use: Smoked marijuana on one or two occasions in the last 30 days
Frequent Use: Smoked marijuana on three or more occasions in the last 30 days
Extent of Use
Marijuana ranks as the third most used substance of those surveyed in the 1998 MAS (Table 3.1 on page 12). Slightly more than 45% (45.2%) of twelfth grade respondents reported they had tried marijuana or hashish at some point and almost a quarter (24.2%) reported they had used marijuana or hashish in the last 30 days. Although few sixth graders indicated they had ever tried marijuana (3.4%), almost one in five (17.2%) eighth graders have and 10% of surveyed eighth graders reported they had used it in the last 30 days. Use rates then climb for tenth graders, with more than one third (36.9%) trying the drug and 22.7% using it in the last 30 days.
Survey data also show that current marijuana users (i.e., last 30 days users) tend to be relatively frequent users as well. As shown in Figure 3.10, the largest percentage of students who have used marijuana in the last 30 days used the drug 3 to 5 times during that period. For eighth graders who have used marijuana, 43.2% used marijuana 3 to 5 times in the last 30 days, 44.6% for tenth graders, and 46.4% for twelfth graders. At the sixth grade level, students were slightly more likely to have only used marijuana 1 or 2 times (38.4%) rather than 3 to 5 times (37.0%). Although the number of youth who used marijuana 6 or more times during the last 30 days was less than youth who used it 3 to 5 times during this time period, the percentages still represented more than one-fourth of all students across sixth, eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders (24.5%, 28.1%, 34.3% and 35.5% respectively).
Characteristics of Twelfth Graders Who Have Used Marijuana
Males outnumber females in the twelfth grade sample of those who have ever tried marijuana (53.8% male vs. 46.2% female)(Figure 3.11). This pattern also holds true for those who are frequent users, although the proportion of males who are frequent users is higher than females (63.0% males vs. 37.0% females). There is a higher percentage of females among the occasional users at twelfth grade than males (52.5% females vs. 47.5% males).
Table 3.10 indicates that there are differences in the number of twelfth grade students who have ever tried marijuana when these data are examined by race/ethnicity of the surveyed students. Whites and Hispanics are most likely to have ever used marijuana (48.8% and 48.1% respectively) while Asians are the least likely (21.8%).
Of those who have ever used marijuana (Table 3.11), the ethnic groups with highest percentage of occasional users are Whites (16.1%) followed by Asians (15.3%). African Americans comprise the largest group of twelfth grade frequent users (40.6%) while Asians are the smallest group of frequent users (25.3%). Hispanics have the lowest proportion of occasional users (10.4%) and the second lowest proportion of students who are frequent users (33.1%).
Age at First Use
From the data presented in Table 3.12, it can be concluded that if young people try marijuana, most of them do so between the ages of 13 to 16 (80.5%). Among twelfth graders reporting that they had tried marijuana, 40.9% say they were 13 to 14 years of age and 39.6% between ages 15 and 16 when they first tried the drug. Few (2.6%) indicated they first used marijuana when 10 years old or younger or when 17 or older (8.3%).
There are some differences in age at first use when examined by gender (Table 3.12). More males than females first used marijuana at 12 years of age or younger (14.3% males vs. 7.7% females) while more females than males first used marijuana between the ages of 13 and 16 (84.3% females vs. 77.2% males).
Data also show gender differences in age at first use for occasional and frequent users (Table 3.13). Almost no males (0.9%) and no females who were occasional users first used marijuana at age 10 or younger. For frequent users, the number of youth who first used marijuana at age 10 or younger was still relatively low, however, more males than females first used the drug at this age (7.2% males vs. 3.7% females). For occasional users, more females than males between the ages of 13 to 16 began using marijuana (ages 13 to14: 34.4% females vs. 30.4% males; ages 15 to 16: 50.9% females vs. 50.6% males). Slightly more males who are occasional marijuana users began using the drug at age 17 or older (11.8%) than females (10.9%).
For twelfth graders who are frequent users of marijuana, males outnumber females in two age groups¾ 10 or younger (7.2% males vs. 3.7% females) and 11 to 12 years of age (14.1% males vs. 11.8% females). Females outnumber males for all remaining ages of first use shown in Table 3.13 (e.g., 13 to 14, 15 to 16, and 17 or older).
When age of first use is examined by race/ethnicity (Figure 3.12), it can be determined that for Asian, African American and White students, these youth were most likely to have first used marijuana between the ages 13 and14. For Hispanic twelfth graders, age of first use was more likely to have been 15 to 16 years old (50.2%). Asian twelfth graders were least likely to have tried marijuana at age 17 or older (0.8%). Hispanic twelfth graders were least likely to have first used marijuana between the ages of 11 and 12 (0.9%).
Comparison of Occasional and Frequent Users of Marijuana
As indicated in the section on gender, more males (53.8%) than females (46.2%) have ever used marijuana. However, among frequent users, there is a substantially higher percentage of males than females. This reverses among occasional users, although the differences are less pronounced. Males are more likely to have first used marijuana at a younger age than females, however, fewer males who are occasional users of marijuana began using at age 12 or younger than frequent users.
When frequent and occasional marijuana users are compared by grade, sixth graders are the group most likely to have used marijuana once or twice (occasionally) within the last 30 days while twelfth graders are the group least likely to have used marijuana only once or twice in the last 30 days (see Figure 3.10). For frequent users, the percentage of students who used marijuana three or more times in the last 30 days (of those who used marijuana) increases by grade (61.5% sixth graders, 71.3% eighth graders, 78.9% tenth graders, and 81.9% twelfth graders).
For race/ethnicity differences by frequent and occasional users, Hispanic twelfth graders are the least likely to report occasional use when compared to other groups. Of all racial/ethnic groups surveyed, African American twelfth graders have the largest group of frequent marijuana users.
Comparison to 1996 Survey Data
Generally, use of marijuana by responding students who have ever used the drug has decreased since the 1996 MAS (Table 3.1 on page 12). Where increases occurred, they were less than one-half of a percent from 1996 levels.
Of those who used marijuana in the last 30 days, when grade level frequency of use data is reviewed, all grade levels and frequency of use increased from that found in 1996. For sixth graders, the largest increase was for those who reported using marijuana six or more times in the last 30 days¾ an increase of 8.3 percentage points from that found in 1996 (16.2% 1996 vs. 24.5% 1998). For eighth graders, the largest percentage increase from 1996 to 1998 was for youth who used marijuana three to five times within the last 30 days, representing an increase of 10.4 percentage points (32.8% 1996 vs. 43.2% 1998). Of the tenth graders who used marijuana, tenth graders increased their use of marijuana six or more times in the last 30 days by 5.1 percentage points from 1996 (29.2% 1996 vs. 34.3% 1998). For twelfth graders, the largest increase was in those who used marijuana three to five times, reflecting a 6.1 percentage point increase from that found in 1996 (40.3% 1996 vs. 46.4% 1998).
Use by females has increased since the 1996 survey. For twelfth graders reporting having ever used marijuana in the last 30 days, 1.1% more females reported having used marijuana in the 1998 survey than in the 1996 survey. Similarly, females reported a 1% increase in occasional use between the 1996 and 1998 survey and a 2 percentage point increase for twelfth grade females who reported frequent use of marijuana in the last 30 days.
When age of first use and gender is examined, there were increases in the number of males and females who began using marijuana at a young age. There were increases from the 1996 data for both twelfth grade males and females who began using marijuana at 10 or younger, 11 to 12 years old, and 13 to 14 years old. Fewer male and female twelfth graders reported they started using marijuana at ages 15 or older than in the 1996 survey. One exception to this was for male occasional users; 50.6% twelfth grade males who used marijuana reported first using it between the ages of 15 and 16. Only 40.2% reported this in 1996.
There was an increase in the number of white twelfth graders who reported they had never used marijuana from the 1996 survey (47.0% 1996 vs. 49.9% 1998). There was an increase in the number of Hispanic twelfth graders who reported they had used marijuana at least once (34.7% 1996 vs. 48.1% 1998). The gains in Hispanic twelfth graders use of marijuana was evident in the 1998 data. For instance, in 1998 50.2% of Hispanic twelfth graders who used marijuana in the last 30 days reported they first used marijuana between the ages of 15 to 16, while only 36.5% reported this in 1996. Twelfth grade Hispanic youth also showed an increase in the number of occasional marijuana users (9.9% 1996 vs. 10.4% 1998). African American twelfth graders who used marijuana comprised more frequent marijuana users in 1998 (40.6%) than in 1996 (37.7%).
Data from the 1998 survey indicate that marijuana use began earlier in more Asian and White youth than in the 1996. Of Asian twelfth graders who used marijuana in the last 30 days, 2.7% began using the drug at age 10 or younger (compared to 0 who reported this in the 1996 survey) and 16.4% began using it between 11 and 12 years of age (compared to 10.7% in 1996). For White twelfth graders, 10.4% reported they began using marijuana between the ages of 11 to 12 in 1998 while only 7.8% reported starting use at this age in 1996. The number of Hispanic twelfth graders who began use of marijuana younger than 10 or between 11 and 12 decreased from the 1996 survey. The number of African American twelfth graders who began use of marijuana younger than 10 decreased slightly from the 1996 survey.
USE OF MORE THAN ONE SUBSTANCE
Many young people who have tried one substance have tried others as well. An investigation of the extent of the use of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana by MAS respondents confirms this. Table 3.14 presents the percentage of sixth, eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders who say they have tried two or three substances, either at the same or at different times. These data show that regardless of the particular substances tried, the number trying more than one substance rises with grade level. More than one fourth (28.9%) of tenth graders in the sample and one-third (35.7%) of all twelfth graders say that they have tried tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana.
The two legal substances that are commonly used by adults are cigarettes and alcohol. MAS data show that these have the highest percentages at all grade levels of any of the sets of substances tried by adolescents. A slightly higher percentage of respondents across all surveyed grades say they have used marijuana and alcohol more than marijuana and cigarettes.
Data show that there are
a few differences by gender in the percentage reporting ever using more than
one substance (Table 3.15). Generally, males outnumber females in their use
of more than one substance. At the sixth grade level, males (greater than 60%)
far outnumber females (less than 38%) across all combinations of substances.
By eighth grade, the distribution between males and females for use of two or
more substances is more equal. There are some instances where females are more
likely to have used two substances than males. At the eighth and tenth grade
level, for cigarettes and alcohol use, females slightly outnumber males (51.5%
vs. 48.5% eighth grade; 51.2% vs. 48.8% tenth grade). By twelfth grade, more males (51.8%) than females (48.2%) report using cigarettes and alcohol.
The analysis of survey responses for use of more than one substance in the last 30 days (Table 3.16) shows that by tenth grade, at least one fifth of students are using alcohol in combination with another substance (cigarettes and alcohol: 19.6% tenth grade and 23.7% twelfth grade; marijuana and alcohol: 20% tenth grade and 21.2% twelfth grade). Overall, the percentage of students who have used more than one substance within the last 30 days increases by grade level. Within grade, there is only a small variation (8% or less) of the percentage of students who use each combination of two substances. Across all grade levels, the smallest proportion of students used all three substances in the last 30 days.
An examination of the populations of adolescents who have smoked, drank, or used marijuana in the last 30 days (Table 3.17) reveals that generally, users of combinations of these substances increase by grade level. In addition, these data show that relatively high percentages of users of any of the three substances in the last 30 days have also used other substances within this time period. Smokers were most likely to also drink in the last 30 days, with almost two thirds (64.7%) of all sixth graders who smoked also drinking and more than three quarters (83.1%) of all twelfth graders who smoked and also drinking in the last 30 days. More than three quarters of surveyed students who used marijuana at all grade levels indicated they also drank in the last 30 days. When examining the combinations of substances and overall data trends shown in Table 3.17, it can be seen that drinkers also using marijuana is the least likely combination of substances across grade levels.
Finally, respondents were asked if they had used alcohol and marijuana on the same occasion. Table 3.18 shows that marijuana users were more likely to use alcohol concurrently than the reverse (alcohol users using marijuana concurrently). Among marijuana users, almost 50% or more had concurrently used alcohol across grade levels. At the twelfth grade level, almost three quarters (73.7%) of responding students had used alcohol when using marijuana. Fewer numbers of alcohol users reported using marijuana while they were drinking; less than 50% (47.4%) of twelfth graders who used alcohol also used marijuana while drinking. From these data it becomes apparent that using both types of substances at one time is not uncommon and increases with grade level.