Teens Smoking Less, But Also Less Active

Teen drinking and smoking habits examined in survery of youth risk behaviors

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Parents can try to teach their kids safe habits, but when it comes down to it, teens will make their own decisions. The CDC has released new data on teens' potentially risky behaviors.

A new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) measured a number of behaviors among high school students, including drinking, safety issues and topics tied to obesity.

The report found declines in tobacco smoking and physical fighting, but found that many teens were texting and driving and spending a lot of time being physically inactive.

"Games that get kids moving are a good way to add in more physical activity."

This report, led by Laura Kann, PhD, of CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health, provided new 2013 data from the annual National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS).

The survey, conducted between September 2012 and December 2013, involved over 13,000 youth in grades 9 through 12 at schools across the country. Issues measured include use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, sexual behaviors and physical inactivity, among other risk-related topics.

"Results from the 2013 national YRBS indicated that many high school students are engaged in priority health-risk behaviors associated with the leading causes of death among persons aged 10–24 years in the United States," wrote Dr. Kann and team.

For example, the survey found that in the 30 days before taking the survey, 41.4 percent of the respondents reported having texted or e-mailed while driving. Additionally, 34.9 percent of the students reported drinking alcohol and 23.4 percent reported using marijuana in the 30 days prior to being surveyed.

In terms of sexual behaviors, the survey found that almost half of the high school students (46.8 percent) had ever had sexual intercourse, and that of the 34 percent who were considered currently sexually active, 59.1 percent had used a condom the last time they had sex. This condom use rate is a slight decline from the 63 percent measured in 2003.

In the 30 days before being surveyed, only 15.7 percent of the students reported smoking cigarettes — a number that met national goals of having a teen smoking rate below 16 percent.

Progress was also seen in rates of physical fighting among high school students. In the latest survey, 25 percent of teens reported being in a physical fight at least once during the previous year, while that rate in 1991 was 42 percent.

Factors tied to obesity were also measured, and the researchers saw less progress in this arena.

Between 2003 and 2013, the percentage of high school students playing video games or using a computer for something that was not school for three or more hours nearly doubled from about 22 percent to 41.3 percent

Dr. Kann and team suggested that these findings could help form school policies and programs aimed to improve the health of US youth.

It is important to note that the teens surveyed only included young people who were attending school.

This study was published online June 12 in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
June 12, 2014
Last Updated:
June 13, 2014