Transcript for CDC Telebriefing: YRBS

Press Briefing Transcript

Tuesday, June 9, 2016, 7:00 p.m. ET

Please Note:This transcript is not edited and may contain errors.

OPERATOR: This call is being recorded, if you have objections you can advertise connect at any time.  I will turn the call over to Mr.  Benjamin Haynes.

BENJAMIN HAYNES: thank you.  Good afternoon. I want to thank you all for joining us for today’s release of the 2015 national youth risk behavior survey, a survey conducted among high school students grades 9 through 12.  Here to discuss the survey is Dr. Stephanie Zaza, Director of CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health.  At this time I would like to turn the call over to Dr. Zaza.

DR. ZAZA: Hello, everybody, and thank you very much for joining us.  Today, we’re releasing results from the 2015 national youth risk behavior survey, what we call the YRBS.  The YRBS consists of national, state, and large urban school district surveys are conducted every two years among high school students throughout the United States.  These surveys monitor priority health risk behaviors including unintentional injuries and violence, sexual behaviors, tobacco, alcohol and our drug use, unhealthy dietary behaviors and physical activity.  These surveys also monitor obesity and asthma. More than 15,000 U.S. high school students participated in the 2015 national YRBS.  Parental permission was obtained for students to participate in the survey, student participation was voluntary, and responses were anonymous.  States and large urban school districts could modify the questionnaire for their own surveys to meet their needs.  The 2015 YRBS report includes national YRBS results from surveys conducted in 37 states and 19 large urban school districts.

YRBS is really important because it tells us what high school students across the country are doing that could affect their health.  We know that adolescence is a time when healthy or risky behaviors are established, and these behaviors can last a lifetime. The data being released today help us understand the behaviors we’re seeing now as well as how they vary across the country and over time.  Today I’d like to share a few results from different topics in the national each topic we’re encouraged to see that high school students are making better choices. Let’s start with smoking, fighting, and having sex.  However, we are still facing bilge challenges.  Cigarette smoking among high school students is at its lowest level since we began this survey in 1991.  On the other hand, new data from the 2015 survey found that 24 percent of high school students reported using e-cigarettes, and that is concerning.  This is the first time that the YRBS has measured e-cigarette use.  Also very troubling is our youth’s use of prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription.  Despite a decrease from 2009 to 2015, 17 percent of high school students say they’ve taken prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription, drugs such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Codeine, Adderall, Ritalin or Xanax, all of which have great potential for addiction. We also have mixed results in interpersonal violence among high school students. The percentage of high school students nationwide who had been in a physical fight in the last year has decreased dramatically from 42 percent in 1991 to 23 percent in 2015.  But Bullying, both in person and electronic, has remained at a troubling 20 percent and 16 percent respectively. Another area where I am encouraged is with dietary behaviors like the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.  There was a significant decrease in drinking soda one or more times a day from 27 percent in 2013 to 20 percent in 2015.

However, sedentary behaviors are still problematic. For example, although TV watching for more than three hours a day decreased from 43 percent in 1999 to 25 percent in 2015, this behavior has been completely replaced by the use of computer.  Computer use, which includes playing video or computer games for more than three hours per day for non-school related work nearly doubled from 22 percent in 2003 to 42 percent in 2015.  In the area of car crash prevention, 42 percent of students reported texting or e-mailing while driving in the past 30 days and this has not changed since 2013.  This puts us all at risk, as each day in the U.S. more than 8 people are killed and nearly 1200 are injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.

With respect to sexual risk behaviors, I’m encouraged to see the reduction in the proportion of high school students who are currently sexually active, which is defined as having had sex in the previous three months.  The percentage of high school students who are currently sexually active, dropping from 38 percent in 1991 to 30 percent in 2015.  Although teens are having less sex, condom use has declined.  Condom use has gone from 63 percent in 2003 to 57 percent in 2015.  Another concern for us is that among these students who are currently sexually active, 21 percent have drunk alcohol or used drugs before the last sexual intercourse. And unfortunately, HIV testing has also decreased from 13 percent in 2011 and 2013 to only 10 percent in 2015.  This year’s YRBS report clearly shows that fewer high school students are engaging in some important health risk behaviors.  But we still have some progress to make.  There is no single solution to reduce health risk behaviors among high school students.  We must all collaborate to help address the health risks, using interventions that are based on the best science available.  To aid these efforts, CDC works with other federal agencies, national nongovernmental organizations, state and local education and health agencies to identify and monitor school health policies and programs, conduct research to increase the effectiveness of interventions, enable partners to plan programs and implement interventions that benefit students and evaluate the impact of those interventions over time. We hope that public health professionals, educators, youth service providers, policymakers and parents can use these data to guide their planning decisions and help schools and communities reduce youth health risk behaviors that are still prevalent and to monitor those that are newly emerging.  Thank you.

BENJAMIN HAYNES: Thank you, Dr. Zaza.  Jennifer, we are ready to take questions.

OPERATOR: Thank you, if you would like to ask a question, please press star 1 on your touch-tone phone and again, it’s star-1 to ask the question, your name is required to introduce you, if you need to withdraw your question, press star-2. One moment for the first question.

OPERATOR:  The first question comes from Marcia Frellick MedScape medical news, your line is open.

MARCIA FRELLICK: Thank you for that, can you talk more about the e-cigarettes and are these first time smokers?  Are they switching to e-cigarettes what is happening there?  Do you have figures on that and this report available in its entirety, where can we find it?

DR. ZAZA:  so, thank you for your question, there are a couple of questions on the use of e-cigarettes and other electronic products like that, so, the data that i recorded was for current use of e-cigarettes within the last 30 days.  That was 24 percent, and we have asked separate questions, have you ever tried using the product and that is higher, closer to 45 percent.  We don’t go in to more detail on this survey about the various forms, or use patterns, those are the two questions that we ask on this survey.  And what was the second part of your question, i’m sorry?

MARCIA FRELLICK:  can we find this report in it’s entirety?

DR. ZAZA:   yes.

DR. ZAZA:   the report will be released at 1:00 today on our website.


BENJAMIN HAYNES: next question, please.

OPERATOR: That comes from David Beasley, your line is open.

DAVID BEASLEY: thank you, had a couple of questions, the CDC had a study in April, which showed a 16percent e-cigarette usage among high schoolers and I was wondering if you can talk a little bit about why your number is higher now, was it the way the question was worded, etcetera, and secondly, if cigarette smoking is going down and e-cigarette use is going up, is there a causal relationship between the two?  In other words, are people using e-cigarettes instead of cigarettes, or they using them to help quit regular cigarettes?

DR. ZAZA:  Okay.  The question regarding the difference in the rates and the different surveys is important.  The different surveys do have different methodologies and ask the questions in a slightly different way, and of course, they follow other different questions, so you could see differences in the actual prevalence rate.  What we see over time with the national use tobacco survey and the national youth risk behavior surveys, the patterns and risks over time and sub group analysis are similar and consistent over time.  So the differences in methodology can likely explain most of that difference.  Our questionnaire does not get in to the why.  Right?  so, our data will tell us what is happening but doesn’t give us insight in to why some behaviors over others, once we have the data, we can begin to delve in and begin to analyze them more deeply and put them in the context of other data sources to learn more about patterns of use and why certain rates are higher than others to begin to break it down.  We have not been able to do that yet.

DAVID BEASLEY:  okay, could you talk about the medical danger of e-cigarettes?  How is it harmful to your health?

DR. ZAZA:  let me refer you to one of our experts on that topic.

BRIAN KING: This is Brian King, the deputy director for research translation in CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.  The increasing rates of e-cigarettes are a growing concern from a health standpoint, particularly for youth, because they typically contain nicotine. And aside from being highly addictive, there’s growing evidence to show that nicotine might harm the developing brain and could also lead to sustained tobacco use over time.  The bottom line is that youth should not be using any form of tobacco product, irrespective of whether its e-cigarettes, a combustible product like cigarettes, or smokeless tobacco.

DAVID BEASLEY:  Thank you.

BENHJAMIN HAYNES: Okay, Jennifer, next question, please.

OPERATOR: The next question comes from Mike Stobbe the associated press, your line is open.

MIKE STOBBE: Hi, thank you for taking my call, I wanted to ask a question about the use of prescription drugs that were obtained without a prescription.  Do you know, you gave the statistic about 17 percent, and that’s a concerning level?  But, that it also had gone down, I was wondering, I’m sorry, the why question, any idea why it’s going down?  And also, I was wondering if the survey provided any information about which of the drugs OxyContin, Vicodin, Adderall, Ritalin or Xanax were the kids saying which they were taking or did it provide that kind of break down?

DR. ZAZA:  Let me answer your second question first.  The question, is a very simple single question, did you try a drug that was not prescribed for you by a physician and there was a list of examples, and the examples that were read out were the ones that were asked, so we cannot break it down further in the YRBS.  We are watching it.  For my part, I think that despite the fact that it’s going down and the prevalence rate is still 17 percent, is quite high.  It suggests that there’s a norming behavior among kids that it’s okay to take these powerful drugs without somebody prescribing them for you.  That is a pattern that can be held over to adulthood and it can lead the other forms of risky drug taking. We do need to watch the trend, we are encouraged that it’s coming down, but given that other than alcohol and marijuana, the most frequently used form of drugs taking, we have to keep a close eye on it.

MIKE STOBBE: Thank you.

BENJAMIN HAYNES: Okay, Jennifer, we have time for one more had.

OPERATOR: at this time, there’s no further question, if you would like to ask a question, press star-1.  There are no further questions.

BENJAMIN HAYNES:  Okay, thank you.  So, this will conclude our telebriefing.  A transcript of this call will be posted to the CDC newsroom as soon as possible. YRBS results will be available on CDC’s website at 1:00 PM Eastern and you can find that at If you need additional information or have other questions, please call the CDC press office at 404-639-3286, or e-mail us at Thank you.

OPERATOR: This concludes today’s conference, thank you for your attendance, you may disconnect your line.


Page last reviewed: June 9, 2016