Electronic cigarettes
American teenagers are smoking lesser cigarettes and marijuana, and are also drinking less compared to their predecessors. [Representational Image]Michael Dorausch/Flickr

American teenagers are shown to be making smarter and safer choices as latest studies suggest that their drinking and smoking of cigarettes and marijuana is at far lesser rates compared to their predecessors in the past 40 years of tracking.

In 1991, nearly 11 percent of high school seniors smoked a half pack of cigarettes or more a day. This year, only 1.8 percent said they smoke that much and 10.5 percent reported any smoking in the last month, according to the annual Monitoring the Future survey of American teens.

Even e-cigarette use fell among high school seniors, from 16 percent last year to 12 percent this year.

Alcohol use is also at its lowest level ever: 37.3 percent of 12th-graders said they have been drunk at least once, down from a high of 53.2 percent in 2001. Even use of marijuana is down among 8th graders.

The percentage of 8th-graders who reported using marijuana in the past month fell from 6.5 percent in 2015 to 5.4 percent this year. Among high school seniors, 22.5 percent used the drug within the past month and six percent used it daily, essentially unchanged from last year, the survey showed.

Researchers are ascribing different reasons to the findings. While Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, suggested that kids are busy with social media and video games, others such as Lloyd Johnston suggest it is part of a general decline.

"That is gigantic good fortune, and really I don't think we as a field or society more generally have spent as much time as we should have celebrating and reflecting on why today's kids are so great in this regard," said Jonathan Caulkins, a drug policy researcher at Carnegie Mellon University.

"On the whole, 'the kids are all right' over the last couple of decades. Anecdotally in my life, I'd say that relationships between today's teens and their parents are also better than in past generations," he added.

However, drug related deaths for adults continue to be a major problem in the United States. Opioid deaths have surpassed gun homicides for the first ever in the US, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysed by the Washington Post. More Americans died from heroin-related incidents than from gun homicides in 2015. Around 50,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year, according to AP.