News Update: Survey shows teens believe tobacco is more dangerous than drugs or alcohol

January 1, 2010

A survey performed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed that nearly 70% of teenagers perceive a great health risk from smoking 1 or more packs of cigarettes a day.

A survey performed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed that nearly 70% of teenagers perceive a great health risk from smoking 1 or more packs of cigarettes a day, but only 40% think that having 5 or more drinks of alcohol once or twice per week (binge drinking) is a great risk, and just a little more than a third (34.2%) believe that there is great risk from smoking marijuana once per month.

Adolescents aged 12 to 17 years participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted in 2007 and 2008. Participants were asked to rate how much harm is done to people physically and in other ways when they use cigarettes, alcohol, and illicit drugs. Response choices were no risk, slight risk, moderate risk, and great risk.

The perceived risks associated with tobacco use were consistent among all ages and gender groups. There were considerable differences of opinion in age and gender groups, however, when it came to perceptions of the great risks involved with drug or alcohol use. Girls perceived great risk associated with smoking 1 or more packs of cigarettes per day, binge drinking, and smoking marijuana once per month. Boys were more likely to perceive great risk from trying heroin once or twice, and both girls and boys had similar perceptions of risk associated with using cocaine once per month and trying LSD once or twice. The percentage of respondents who perceived great risk from binge drinking and smoking marijuana once per month decreased with age. When it came to using cocaine once per month, heroin once or twice, or LSD once or twice, the percentage of teens who saw great risk from these behaviors increased with age.