By David Beasley
ATLANTA (Reuters) – Fewer U.S. teenagers are smoking cigarettes, fighting or having sex, but texting while driving is prevalent among high school students, according to a survey released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday.
In 2013, 15.7 percent of teenagers reported smoking cigarettes, the lowest rate recorded since the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey began in 1991, the CDC said.
But more than 40 percent of students who had driven a car in the previous 30 days said they sent text messages or emails while driving. Last year’s survey was the first to collect such data on texting and 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,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement.
But, he added, “way too many young people still smoke, and other areas such as texting while driving remain a challenge.”
In the 1991 survey, 27.5 percent of high school students said they smoked cigarettes. The rate increased to 36.4 percent in 1997 before beginning a steady decline, the CDC said. In 2011, 18.1 percent of teenagers reported smoking.
The rate of students using smokeless tobacco increased from 7.7 percent in 2011 to 8.8 percent in 2013, the CDC said.
The percentage of students who reported ever having sexual intercourse dropped slightly from 47.4 percent in 2011 to 46.8 percent in 2013.
Fighting also declined, the survey showed. In 2013, 24.7 percent of students reported having been in a physical fight at least once during the prior 12 months, down from 32.8 percent in 2011.
(Reporting by David Beasley; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Eric Beech)