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Teenage Smoking Rates Decline, Texting Rates Increase, Survey Finds

Update Date: Jun 13, 2014 09:33 AM EDT

A new federal survey found that teenagers are still engaging in risky behaviors. However, the risky behaviors have changed over time. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that even though teen smoking and drunk driving rates have gone down, the number of teens who text or email while driving is still relatively high.

The researchers found that four in 10 teens admitted to using their cellphones while driving. This habit is extremely dangerous for the driver, passengers and pedestrians. Aside from texting and emailing, the researchers found that teens today sit in front of a screen more often than before. From 2011 to 2013, the rate of teens that used a computer for more than three hours per day increased from 31.1 percent to 41.3 percent.

Another risky behavior that has increased over the years is unprotected sex. The researchers found that even though the majority of teens are not sexually active, those that are do not use condoms. The researchers calculated that 47 percent of teens have never had sex, while 34 percent of teens reported being sexually active. In the latter group of teens, only 59 percent of them stated that they used a condom during sex, which is down from 2003's rate of 63 percent.

Despite the increase the certain risky behaviors, the report found that the cigarette-smoking rate for high school students has declined to its lowest level in 22 years. In 2013, the rate of teens that smoked at least one cigarette within the past 30 days was 15.7 percent. This rate meets the nation's objective of getting the teenage smoking rate at 16 percent or less. However, the health officials stated that the fight against tobacco is far from over.

"We're encouraged to see high school students are making better choices in some areas, such as smoking," Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, told reporters according to NPR. "But we still face big challenges in reducing overall tobacco use."

Data came from ninth to 12th graders attending high school in the U.S. The survey asked teens about the different types of behaviors that they engaged in within the past 12 months. Roughly 13,500 surveys were given out at public and private high schools.

The study was published in the CDC's Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

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