Fewer teens drink, smoke and use illicit drugs these days, according to a Centre for Addiction and Mental Health survey that has been polling high schoolers on their behaviour since 1977.
However, this year the study also found that almost 30% of those in grade 12 engage in hazardous drinking, and for the first time, more teens reported using electronic cigarettes than traditional cigarettes.
Between last November and last June, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health took anonymous questionnaires from more than 10 000 students in classrooms across the province.
“Every two years when we do the survey we discover something new.” said Dr. Hayley Hamilton.
Alcohol is still the most prevalent drug, and cannabis the favourite illicit drug.
“The majority of people I know smoke weed, do MDMA, ecstasy, that kind of stuff.”
Ecstacy is the only drug on the rise, but researchers found something else that’s new. More students use e-cigarettes than regular tobacco cigarettes.
“We’re very concerned, because of the inconclusive knowledge about the effects of e-cigarettes.” said Dr. Hamilton.
E-cigarette proponents rallied at Queen’s Park last weekend against upcoming changes that will put vaping on par with smoking, legally. Which means vape shops won’t be able to display products or show people how to use them.
Most e-cigarette sellers like Vapor Bar in Dundas won’t sell to anyone under 19 and they do support more research into the effects of vaping.
“We’re here to provide a harm reduction for people who smoke cigarettes. We’re not here to encourage people to take it up because it’s cool.” said Matt Ramage.
But there is a cool factor for teens, according to youth addictions psychiatrist Corine Carlisle, and she worries smoking will become normal again.
“Many youth are attracted to vaping because of the cool smoke tricks, and because it’s a hip and happening, emerging substance use scene.”
“If only current cig users were allowed to use e-cigs, that would be a great benefit to society. But we do see kids who are not smokers, are picking up e-cigarettes.” said tobacco researcher Robert Schwartz.
The researchers say teenagers are wired to take risks, it’s part of growing up. But drugs have a harsher impact on their developing brains, and the damage is harder to reverse.