Thursday, January 3, 2013

Latest MTF Results Are In

The 2012 Monitoring the Future survey results are finally in.  We see that, in a nutshell, alcohol use and "binge" drinking* has reached historic lows for grades 8 and 10, while there has been a slight increase from the previous year's record low for grade 12.  Cannabis use has leveled off after rising for five straight years, use of most other substances either held steady or declined, and tobacco use has fallen to record lows.  In fact, cannabis is now more popular than tobacco (but still less so than alcohol) among today's youth, and has been for the past three years in a row.  Note that this reversal of rank was more due to a decrease in tobacco use rather than due to an increase in cannabis use, since the use of both substances are down from their respective peaks in the late 1970s.

So what should we make of these results?  While the pro-21 crowd would like to take credit for the massive decrease in alcohol consumption among teenagers since 1979, one must remember that teen drinking also plummeted in Canada (and more recently in the UK) despite not raising the drinking age to 21.  Also, tobacco continued its long-term decline while for alcohol there are some signs of a turnaround, despite the smoking age remaining at 18 in nearly all states.  Thus, the relationship between the drinking age (and its enforcement) and the levels of teen drinking is not nearly as cut-and-dried as the pro-21 crowd would like us to believe.  In fact, some studies have found that the opposite may be true for dangerous drinking practices among teens and young adults.

*We at Twenty-One Debunked always put the term "binge drinking" in scare quotes when we are referring to the 5+ or 5/4+ drinks definitions, as we believe that such definitions are grossly inaccurate measures of the very real problem of truly dangerous drinking.  More information about this issue can be found in our previous posts here and here.

1 comment:

  1. It's good that binge drinking has decreased for girls and boys in grades 8-10. Tobacco use gone done and the smoking age in most states are at the correct minimum age. The statistics show an improvement. The drinking age of 21 is nothing more than age discrimination. Canada and the United Kingdom show that the right drinking age of 18 does not correlate to increased alcohol consumption for 13-17 year old girls and boys. Supporters of the ageist drinking age don't have the justification that they think they have. We know better.