Teens Are Smoking and Drinking Less

National, state, and large urban school district surveys are conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) every two years among high school students across the nation.

Known as the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), the survey focuses on approximately 100 health risk behaviors among students in an effort to help communities and their young people by reducing high-risk behaviors and increasing healthy behaviors. Data gathered by the CDC indicates teenagers are smoking and drinking less, but seem to be making up for it in other areas.

The newly released 2013 YRBSS report includes not only National YRBS data, but also data gathered from surveys conducted across 42 states and 21 large urban school districts.

Details of the 2013 YRBSS

  • The number of high school students smoking cigarettes dropped to an all-time low at 15.7 percent, meeting the Healthy People 2020 objective to reduce adolescent cigarette use to 16 percent or less.
  • High school sexual activity has declined, from approximately 38 percent in 1991 to an impressive 34 percent in 2013.
  • Condom use among sexually active teens (about one third) has also declined, down from 63 percent in 2003 to 59 percent in 2013.
  • Only 2.3 percent of high school students have ever used heroin, a percentage that has remained steady over the years. However, the CDC also found heroin use increased within a few large urban school districts, climbing to 7.4 percent.

News on Tobacco Use

Despite the fact that cigarette smoking is at an all-time low among teens, there’s more to this story than meets the eye. For starters, cigars are now as popular as cigarettes to male teenagers. Smokeless tobacco use has been stuck at 8 percent since the 1999 YRBS, while national surveys have shown increases in hookah and e-cigarette use.

Separating Right from Wrong

While some high-risk behaviors are on the decline, the falling numbers could be linked to a significant shift in thinking. For example, 71 percent of students believe it’s wrong for teens to smoke cigarettes, but only 42 percent think it’s wrong for teens to drink alcohol and/or smoke marijuana.

Over two-thirds of the students say smoking cigarettes is bad for your health, but less than half see weekend binge drinking as a dangerous behavior. Additionally, only one quarter believes chronic marijuana use is harmful.

Next year’s survey results will be unique, thanks to variables like legalizing marijuana and the synthetic drug epidemic.

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