- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2008

CHICAGO (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE) | U.S. teens are having less sex, doing fewer drugs and smoking fewer cigarettes than those who grew up in the 1990s, according to a study released Wednesday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

They are also more likely to use condoms when they have sex, wear seat belts and avoid getting into cars with drivers who have been drinking, the national study of youth risk behavior found.

About 48 percent of high school students were no longer virgins in 2007, down from 54 percent in 1991.

Meanwhile, 15 percent said they’d had four or more sexual partners, down from 19 percent in 1991.

About 62 percent of sexually active students said they used a condom the last time they had sex, up from 46 percent in 1991.

Some 35 percent of teens had at least one drink of alcohol in the month before they were surveyed in 2007, down from 42 percent in 1991.

Marijuana use has fallen to 20 percent of students from a peak of 27 percent in 1999, while methamphetamine use is down to 4 percent of teens surveyed in 2007 from 10 percent in 2001.

Nearly half as many students said they carried some kind of weapon: 17 percent in 2007 compared with 33 percent in 1991.

Little change was reported in the number of students who said they had stayed home from school because they felt unsafe either in the building or on the streets: 7 percent in both 1991 and 2007.

About 12 percent of students said they rarely or never wore seat belts in 2007, down from 35 percent in 1991, and 27 percent said they had gotten into a car with a driver who had been drinking, down from 36 percent in 1991.

“We are pleased that more high school students today are doing things that will help them stay healthy and avoiding things that put their health in danger,” said Howell Wechsler, director of CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health.

“Unfortunately, we are not seeing that same progress among Hispanic teens for certain risk factors.”

While the number of black teens who’d had sex decreased significantly (66 percent in 2007 compared with 82 percent in 1991), along with the number of white teens (44 percent in 2007 compared with 50 percent in 1991), no change was found among Hispanic teens (52 percent in 2007 and 53 percent in 1991).

“Hispanic students were more likely than either black students or white students to attempt suicide, use cocaine, heroin or Ecstasy, ride with a driver who had been drinking alcohol, or go 24 hours or more without eating in an effort to lose weight,” Mr. Wechsler said in a conference call with reporters.

“Hispanic students were also more likely than both black students and white students to say they did not go to school on occasion because of safety concerns, were offered or sold illegal drugs on school property or drank alcohol on school property.”

A nationally representative sample of more than 14,000 students in grades nine to 12 were surveyed.

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