Research & Resources

Tobacco Products, Alcohol, and Other Substance Use Among High School Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic

During January–June 2021, 31.6 percent of high school students reported current use of any tobacco product, alcohol, marijuana, or current misuse of prescription opioids. Current alcohol use (19.5 percent), electronic vapor product (EVP) use (15.4 percent), and marijuana use (12.8 percent) were more prevalent than prescription opioid misuse (4.3 percent), current cigarette smoking (3.3 percent), cigar smoking (2.3 percent), or smokeless tobacco use (1.9 percent). Approximately one-third of students who used EVPs did so daily, and 22.4 percent of students who drank alcohol did so at least six times per month. Approximately one in three students who ever used alcohol or other drugs reported using these substances more during the pandemic. The prevalence of substance use was typically higher among non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native students; older students; and gay, lesbian, or bisexual students than among students of other racial or ethnic groups, younger students, or heterosexual students. The prevalence of alcohol use specifically was higher among non-Hispanic white students than among students of other racial or ethnic groups. Students only attending school virtually had a lower prevalence of using most of the substances examined than did students attending schools with in-person or hybrid models. Researchers suggested that the findings can help inform public health interventions and messaging to address these health risks during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

This paper, “Use of tobacco products, alcohol, and other substances among high school students during the COVID-19 pandemic—Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey, United States, January–June 2021,” was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and published in the journal MMWR Supplements.

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