distracted driving up in teens
June 13, 2014

Cigarette Smoking Down Amongst Teens, But Nearly Half Admit To Texting While Driving

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The number of teenagers who smoke cigarettes is at a 22-year-low, but nearly half of all high school students report having texted or emailed while driving, according to a new US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study released Thursday.

The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) report found cigarette smoking rates among high school students has dropped to 15.7 percent. However, the CDC study, which used national data and 42 states, also said 41 percent of students who had operated a motor vehicle over the past 30 days admitted to having texted or emailed while doing so.

According to Reuters reporter David Beasley, the teenage smoking rate is the lowest recorded since the survey began in 1991. Health officials told Beasley the results were encouraging, but they expressed concern that any gains made by anti-smoking campaigns would be offset by the increasing popularity of electronic cigarettes.

“We're particularly concerned about e-cigarettes re-glamorizing smoking traditional cigarettes and maybe making it more complicated to enforce smoke-free laws that protect all non-smokers,” CDC Director Tom Frieden told Reuters.

Likewise, Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the YRBSS study findings “are a powerful reminder that the fight against tobacco is an entirely winnable battle, but the job is still far from done.”

This year marked the first year the CDC inquired about teen texting-and-driving habits, and in stark contrast to the smoking statistics, the results were not encouraging – especially among older students. In fact, Alex Wayne of Bloomberg News reports more than half of all high-school seniors confessed to having texted while behind the wheel.

“Texting and driving can lead to car crashes, the number 1 cause of deaths among adolescents, the Atlanta-based agency said in its report released today,” Wayne said. “The rate rises as students age, with 61 percent of 12th-grade boys and 59.5 percent of girls reporting they sent a message while driving.”

At the state level, 61.3 percent of students in South Dakota admitted to texting or emailing while driving, noted Mike Esterl of the Wall Street Journal. That was the highest reported incidence rate, while the lowest was observed in Massachusetts, where just 32.3 percent said they had engaged in this high-risk behavior.

More than one-third of students (34.9 percent) said they had consumed at least one alcoholic drink during the past 30 days, Esterl said. That’s down from 38.7 percent in 2011, and part of a steady decline that has been going on for more than a decade. At the state level, teen drinking rates ranged from a high of 39 percent in New Jersey to a low of just 11 percent in Utah, the Wall Street Journal writer added.

The study also found 23.4 percent of students said they had tried marijuana at least once over the past month, compared to 23.1 percent in 2011 and 25.3 percent in 1995. Use of other types of illicit drugs, including cocaine, heroin and ecstasy, had fallen since 2011 and were said to be lower than they were two decades ago.

The percentage of US high school students who had participated in at least one fight over the past 12 months was down from 42 percent in 1991 to 25 percent in 2013, and the number of fights occurring on school grounds dropped by half (from 16 percent to 8 percent) since 1993, the CDC report said.

The agency added that the percentage of high school students who are currently sexually active declined from 38 percent in 1991 to 34 percent in 2013. Those who do engage in intercourse were found to be less likely to use condoms, as 63 percent said they used the contraceptive in 2003 compared to just 59 percent in 2013.