U.S. teenagers are smoking cigarettes less frequently but texting while driving more.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the most recent data from its biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey this week, which showed smoking among teens continues a long-term drop. Cigarette smoking among U.S. high school students is the lowest it has been in 22 years, according to survey data. Sexual activity and alcohol use by teens have also been on a long-term decline since the 1990s.

youth-risk-graphicHowever, close to half of those surveyed admitted to texting or sending an email while driving sometime in the past month.

More than 13,500 U.S. students took the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

The survey, administered by the CDC every two years, asks young people a wide variety of questions related to health and risk behaviors, from whether they wear a seatbelt while in a car and whether they typically eat breakfast to if they’ve had sex, use birth control or used marijuana, cocaine or other drugs. The questionnaire is voluntary and anonymous.

The survey also includes questions about mental health, including whether a student has thought about attempting suicide or “felt sad or hopeless” consistently.


Key findings include:

  • Cigarette smoking rates among high school students have dropped to 15.7 percent.
  • 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, from 16 percent in 1993 to 8 percent in 2013.
  • Nationwide, 41 percent of students who had driven a car or other vehicle during the past 30 days reported texting or emailing while driving.
  • The percentage of high school students who are sexually active declined from 38 percent in 1991 to 34 percent in 2013.
  • Among sexually active high school students, condom use declined from 63 percent in 2003 to 59 percent in 2013.


The survey was taken by students in ninth through 12th grades across the United States, in both public and private schools, between September and December 2012.

The full results are posted at CDC.gov. The data is searchable by state and region; information from past surveys and nationwide trends are also available.









Bethany Bray is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at bbray@counseling.org


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