Cigarette smoking among high schoolers reaches all-time low, but e-cigarettes remain a concern

Fewer US high school students are smoking cigarettes, fighting, taking prescription drugs, drinking soda, and having sex. But texting while driving is prevalent, and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) remain a concern, according to a survey released by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) on Thursday.
In fact, the number of high school students smoking cigarettes dropped to 11% in 2015, an all-time low since the National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey began in 1991.

However, 24% of high schoolers said they used e-cigarettes during the past 30 days. E-cigarettes continue to be the most widely used products among high schoolers, having overtaken cigarettes. This remains an area of concern for the CDC because most contain nicotine, which causes addiction, could harm brain development, and could lead to continued tobacco product use.

“Current cigarette smoking is at an all-time low, which is great news,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden in a press release. “However, it’s troubling to see that students are engaging in new risk behaviours, such as using e-cigarettes. We must continue to invest in programs that help reduce all forms of tobacco use, including e-cigarettes, among youth.”

In May 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalised an important rule extending its authority to all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and including for the first time a restriction on the sale of such products to minors across the country. It is hoped that these new regulations will have an effect on e-cigarette use among minors.

The National Youth Risk Survey found no change in the percentage of students nationwide who texted or emailed while driving since 2013. Among high school students who had driven a car in the past 30 days, the percentage who texted or emailed while driving ranged from 26% to 63% across 35 states, and from 14% to 39% across 18 large urban school districts in 2015.

The survey also found that prescription drug use without a prescription fell to 17% in 2015 and the percentage of students that had gotten in a fight during the past 12 months dropped from 42% in 1991 to 23 per cent in 2015. Fewer students are also currently sexually active (30%) and there has been a decrease in how many teens have drank soda (down from 27% in 2013 to 20% in 2015.)

“While overall trends for the 2015 report are positive, the results highlight the continued need for improvements in reducing risks among teens,” said Laura Kann, chief of the CDC’s School-Based Surveillance Branch in a press release.

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