New statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that cigarette smoking rates among American high school students have fallen to the lowest levels since the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey began in 1991.
The National Youth Risk Behavior Survey is a product of the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), an initiative from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) designed to monitor trends in health risk behaviors among high school students at national, state and local levels.
These priority health risk behaviors include:
- Unintentional injuries and violence
- Sexual behaviors contributing to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection
- Other drug use
- Unhealthy dietary behaviors
- Physical inactivity
This data is provided by national, state and large urban school district surveys that are conducted among high school students every 2 years.
The 2013 YRBSS report featured the participation of more than 13,000 American high school students across 42 states and 21 large urban school districts. Participation in the survey was voluntary and responses were anonymous. The questionnaire could also be modified by states and large urban school districts as required.
Smoking and violent behaviors are becoming less common among US teens
The results of the 2013 survey found that teen smoking is now down to 15.7%, which means the US has met the national Healthy People 2020 target of lowering high school-age smoking to 16% or less. However, although cigarette smoking has fallen in this group, other national surveys have registered increases in e-cigarette use and water pipe smoking among adolescents.
The YRBSS did not detect a change in smokeless tobacco use among teenagers but did note that a previously acknowledged decline in cigar use among male high school seniors had slowed, standing now at 23%.
Violence also exhibited signs of decline among teenagers in the YRBSS. The percentage of students who had been involved in a physical fight at least once during the past year has fallen from 42% in 1991 to 25% in 2013.
The results of the 2013 survey found that teen smoking is now down to 15.7%, which means the US has met the national Healthy People 2020 target of lowering high school-age smoking to 16% or less.
Fights on school property, meanwhile, have halved in the past 2 decades. In the 1993 YRBSS, 16% of high school students had been in a fight on school property during the previous 12 months, while just 8% had in 2013.
However, findings on risky sexual behaviors were more mixed. The survey results show 4% drops in the percentage of students who are currently sexually active (38% in 1991; 34% in 2013), but also in the percentage of sexually active students who use condoms (63% in 2003; 59% in 2013).
Obesity-related behaviors also demonstrated varied results.
The YRBSS recorded that the percentage of adolescents who spend 3 or more hours a day using a computer (not for school work) has nearly doubled over the past decade, from 22% in 2003 to 41% in 2013.
However, the percentage of students who watch 3 or more hours of TV on an average school day has decreased from 43% in 1999 to 32% in 2013.
Also, soda drinking saw a significant decrease. In 2007, 34% of high school students drank soda one or more times a day, but in 2013, just 27% of high school students reported doing this.
The 2013 YRBSS was also the first survey to capture statistics on high school students texting or emailing while driving. Nationwide, 41% of teenagers who currently drive reported texting or emailing while driving.
"It's encouraging that high school students are making better health choices such as not fighting, not smoking, and not having sex," says CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. "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."