More Young Adults Used Pot, But Fewer Drank, Smoked Cigarettes or Used Other Drugs in 2017-2018

Posted May 22, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Updates marijuana use

The share of young adults who used pot has eclipsed the per­cent­age who smoked tobac­co cig­a­rettes, mark­ing a note­wor­thy change in Amer­i­can sub­stance-use habits.

In 20172018, accord­ing to recent­ly released data, 22% of peo­ple ages 18 to 25 had used mar­i­jua­na in the past month, while 21% had smoked a cig­a­rette.

Binge drink­ing fell and the use of drugs oth­er than pot and tobac­co held steady, mak­ing mar­i­jua­na use the out­lier among young adults as habits change among col­lege stu­dents and oth­ers who are in their ear­ly adult years. The shifts come as more states lift restric­tions on mar­i­jua­na use and as adver­tis­ing to curb cig­a­rette smok­ing con­tin­ues to be a fea­ture of young people’s lives in the wake of the 1998 tobac­co set­tle­ment.

Mar­i­jua­na use con­tin­ues mul­ti­year rise, varies across states

Pot use by young adults ticked upward from 20072008 to 20102011 and has held steady until the rate start­ed to uptick again in 20142015. The fig­ure climbed from 21% in 20162017 to 22% in 20172018, with more than 7.5 mil­lion peo­ple ages 18 to 25 using mar­i­jua­na in the past month dur­ing the lat­ter time frame. Mean­while, 7% of those ages 12 to 17 had used pot in the past month in 20172018.

Per­haps unsur­pris­ing giv­en the dif­fer­ences in laws from state to state, mar­i­jua­na use rates con­tin­ued to show wide vari­a­tion among the states. Pot use was high­est in Ver­mont (38%), Maine (35%) and Col­orado (33%) and low­est in Utah (14%).

Cig­a­rette use has dropped almost by half since 2002

The per­cent­age of young adults who smoke cig­a­rettes, 21% in 20172018, has been on the decline for years. Data can be found at the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Cen­ter going back to 20022003, and at that time, the cig­a­rette use rate for young adults was 41%. The fig­ure has held steady or fall­en every year since. Cig­a­rette use has like­wise fall­en for the 12 to 17 age group, from 13% in 20022003 and 9% a decade ago to 3% now.

As with pot, cig­a­rette use among young adults varies wide­ly across the states, from a high of 32% in West Vir­ginia to a low of 14% in Utah. In 20022003, there were 48 states where at least a third of young adults used cig­a­rettes; by 20172018, for the first time, there were none.

Popular Posts

View all blog posts   |   Browse Topics

Youth with curly hair in pink shirt

blog   |   June 3, 2021

Defining LGBTQ Terms and Concepts

A mother and her child are standing outdoors, each with one arm wrapped around the other. They are looking at each other and smiling. The child has a basketball in hand.

blog   |   August 1, 2022

Child Well-Being in Single-Parent Families