CDC Reports on Health-Related Risk Behavior by Teens

Cigarette smoking rates among high school students have dropped to the lowest levels since the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) began in 1991, according to the 2013 results released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

By achieving a teen smoking rate of 15.7 percent, the United States has met its national Healthy People 2020 objective of reducing adolescent cigarette use to 16 percent or less.

Despite this progress, reducing overall tobacco use remains a significant challenge. For example, other national surveys show increases in hookah and e-cigarette use. In the YRBS, no change in smokeless tobacco use was observed among adolescents since 1999, and the decline in cigar use has slowed in recent years, with cigar use now at 23 percent among male high school seniors.

“It’s encouraging that high school students are making better health choices such as not fighting, not smoking, and not having sex,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.  “Way too many young people still smoke and other areas such as texting while driving remain a challenge.  Our youth are our future.  We need to invest in programs that help them make healthy choices so they live long, healthy lives.”

The YRBS provides data related to behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence. The 2013 survey found encouraging reductions in physical fighting among adolescents:  

  • The percentage of high school students nationwide who had been in a physical fight at least once during the past 12 months decreased from 42 percent in 1991 to 25 percent in 2013.
  • Fights on school property have been cut in half during the past 20 years.  Sixteen percent of high school students were in at least one physical fight on school property during the 12 months before the survey in 1993, compared to 8 percent in 2013.

For the first time, the surveys conducted by states and large urban school districts gathered information on texting and e-mailing by adolescents while driving. The survey’s findings indicate that the use of technology while driving continues to put youth at risk:

  • Among high school students who had driven a car or other vehicle during the past 30 days, the percentage of high school students who texted or e-mailed while driving ranged from 32 percent to 61 percent across 37 states and from 19 percent to 43 percent across 15 large urban school districts.
  • Nationwide, 41 percent of students who had driven a car or other vehicle during the past 30 days reported texting or emailing while driving.

Read the full press release here. All 2013 YRBS data is available here.