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CDC Data Reveal Many Far More Dangerous Teen Behaviors Than Vaping


In the hierarchy of teenage risk behaviors, government data shows that vaping pales compared to drinking-, driving- and weapon-related activities. It is remarkable that public health officials and the media focus so greatly on the former, to the detriment of teen safety and health.

A report from the CDC earlier this year (here), based on the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), allows us to put the data in context.

The prevalence of past-month e-cigarette use in the 2017 YRBS was 13%.  That rate is higher than those for cigarettes (8.8%), cigars (8.0%) and smokeless tobacco (5.5%).  However, as I discussed recently (here), the vaping rate pales next to those for marijuana (19.8%) and alcohol (29.8%).  In fact, the e-cigarette rate is nearly identical to the rate for binge drinking (4 or 5 drinks within a couple hours).

These rates of drug use are troubling, but there is much worse in the federal report for parents and policymakers to be concerned about.  Following is a list of other risky behaviors by high school students in the past 30 days.


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Prevalence (%) of Risky Behaviors Among American High School Students (YRBS, 2017)


Past 30 Days


Rarely/never wore a seatbelt (as an occupant)5.9%
Rode with driver who had been drinking16.5%
Drove after drinking5.5%
Drove after marijuana use13.0%
Texted or emailed while driving39.2%
Carried a weapon (e.g. gun, knife, club)15.7%


Past 90 Days
Had sexual intercourse28.7%
..…and used condom, 53.8% of previous


Past Year


Involved in physical fight23.6%
Physically bullied on school property19.0%
Electronically bullied14.9%


Felt sad or hopeless31.5%
Considered suicide17.2%
Made suicide plan13.6%
Attempted suicide7.4%



Media coverage of the CDC YRBS report (here) was largely confined to the sensational -- “Fewer teens having sex and using drugs, CDC says.”

The absence of focus on the more prevalent and dangerous behaviors in part reflects the FDA-led public health community fixation on vaping.  This may stem from the fact that, of the many greater-risk categories outlined by the CDC, the FDA’s regulatory authority only extends to tobacco. To a federal agency with a hammer, everything is a nail.

Original author: Brad Rodu
Peer review of: Linda Johnson et al. (Washington U...
Rethinking nicotine: FDA asks six questions about ...
 

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