Prevent Alcohol and Tobacco Use: Learn About It

The Importance of Preventing Underage Use

Group of teens talking and walking down stairs at school

Using alcohol and tobacco is unhealthy—and illegal—for young people. The younger kids begin using these substances, the more likely they are to become addicted and face other risks.1

Alcohol and tobacco are “gateways” to other unhealthy or illegal activities. These risks include early sex and use of illegal drugs.2

By tapping their strengths, families can play a big role in preventing these high-risk behaviors.

Why Prevent Underage Alcohol and Tobacco Use

Many young people try alcohol and tobacco while in middle school or high school. However, there are risks to early substance use.

  • Alcohol use by teenagers is dangerous. It can lead to impaired brain development, school problems, other risky behaviors, and addiction. Learn more...

  • All tobacco products are dangerous. Smoking is the leading cause of early, preventable death and disease. Learn more...

  • E-cigarettes are not “safer” than cigarettes. They are harmful to kids’ health. Learn more...

Current Underage Alcohol and Tobacco Use

About one-third of high school students drink alcohol, and one in five smoke cigarettes. These rates declined between 1991 and 2013. However, use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) has grown. Learn more...

Preventing Youth Alcohol and Tobacco Use

Researchers have identified factors that protect youth from using alcohol or tobacco as well as factors that increase the risk that they will use. These factors point to ways to prevent youth alcohol and tobacco use.

Additional Resources

Find extensive, credible information underage alcohol and tobacco use through these recommended websites.

Next Steps

  • Take the quiz to examine the ways you address alcohol and tobacco use in your family.
  • Learn about the risks associated with underage alcohol use.

Research Sources

1. Office of Applied Studies (2004, updated 2008). The NSDUH Report: Alcohol dependence or abuse and age of first use. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2012). ). Preventing tobacco use among youth and young adults: A report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.

2. Office of Applied Studies (2004, updated 2008). The NSDUH Report: Alcohol dependence or abuse and age of first use. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2012). ). Preventing tobacco use among youth and young adults: A report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.