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Race/Ethnicity Differences in Trends of Marijuana, Cigarette, and Alcohol Use Among 8th, 10th, and 12th Graders in Washington State, 2004–2016


Accurate estimates of substance use in the teenage years by race/ethnicity may help identify when to intervene to prevent long-term substance use disparities. We examined trends in past 30-day use of marijuana, cigarette, and alcohol among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders in Washington State, which passed a recreational marijuana law in 2012 and initiated retail marijuana sales in 2014. Data are from the 2004–2016 Washington Healthy Youth Surveys (n = 161,992). We used time series regression models to assess linear and quadratic trends in substance use for the full sample and stratified on race/ethnicity and grade level and examined relative differences in prevalence of use by race/ethnicity. In Washington, across all racial/ethnic groups, marijuana use peaked in 2012. Although there was not a significant overall change in marijuana use for the full sample across the study period, there was a statistically significant increase in use among 12th graders and a statistically significant decrease among 8th graders. Relative to Whites, Asians had a lower prevalence of marijuana use, whereas all other race/ethnicity groups had a higher prevalence of use. Prevalence of marijuana use is particularly high among American Indian/Alaska Native and Black youth and has increased most rapidly among 12th grade Hispanic/Latinx youth. There were large and statistically significant decreases in alcohol and cigarette use across the study period for the full sample, as well as for each race/ethnicity group. These findings highlight the need for continued monitoring of trends in use among these groups and potentially warrant consideration of selective interventions that specifically focus on students of color and that include developmentally-appropriate strategies relevant to each grade.

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The authors thank the Washington State Healthy Youth Survey participants and the Washington State Department of Health survey administration. Neither DHS nor any of the sponsors had a role in determining study design; data collection, analysis, or interpretation; writing the report; or the decision to submit the report for publication.


This work was supported by several National Institutes of Health grants (R21DA037341, Guttmannova, Fleming, Cambron; T32HD007543, Cambron; K01DA031738, Johnson; T32DA007292, Brighthaupt; K01CA184288, P30CA006973, P30AI094189, R25MH083620, Dean). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the official views of the NIH.

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Correspondence to Renee M. Johnson.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards (World Medical Association 2013).

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This was a secondary data analysis. Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in the parent study.

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Johnson, R.M., Fleming, C.B., Cambron, C. et al. Race/Ethnicity Differences in Trends of Marijuana, Cigarette, and Alcohol Use Among 8th, 10th, and 12th Graders in Washington State, 2004–2016. Prev Sci 20, 194–204 (2019).

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  • Adolescent
  • Substance use
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Marijuana/cannabis
  • Policy