Highlights of a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)

Relationship Between Cigarette Smoking and Other Unhealthy Behaviors Among Our Nation’s Youth: United States, 1992

Advance Data No. 263

For Release April 24, 1995

America’s youth are engaged in risky health behaviors, and those who smoke cigarettes are the most likely to have many poor health habits. In a NCHS survey of the unhealthy behaviors of youth aged 12-21 years, the data showed that over one-quarter of adolescents and young adults were smokers, almost half drank alcohol, and about 40 percent had engaged in a physical fight.

The survey documented an association between smoking and other unhealthy behaviors. This relationship was particularly striking for the use of other addictive substances such as alcohol, marijuana, and smokeless tobacco. Current smokers were 3 to 17 times more likely to have recently used other substances than adolescents who had never smoked. Smokers were more likely to have engaged in binge drinking and to have been involved in physical fighting and in carrying weapons, including guns and knives.

The survey was designed to focus on the adolescent period when many life-long habits and attitudes are set and is based on household interviews with a sample representative of the national population aged 12-21 years.

Data highlights

  • About 29 percent of males aged 12-21 years and 26 percent of females in the same age group were current smokers. Another 28 percent of boys and 30 percent of girls had experimented with cigarettes.
  • Failure to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily was the most frequently unhealthy behavior reported by 87 percent of youth. Cocaine use was reported by about 1 percent. Almost two-thirds failed to use a seat belt regularly and nearly half exercised less than 3 times a week. Some 60 percent had engaged in sexual intercourse.
  • Some behaviors differed markedly between the sexes. Male youths were more likely than females to have engaged in a physical fight (48 percent compared with 29 percent), more likely to have carried a weapon in the past month (24 percent compared with 6 percent), and more likely to have used smokeless tobacco and marijuana. Females were more likely than males to get inadequate exercise.

For more information, please contact NCHS, Office of Public Affairs (301) 458-4800, or via e-mail at paoquery@cdc.gov.

No. 263. Relationship Between Cigarette Smoking and Other Unhealthy Behaviors Among Our Nation’s Youth: United States, 1992. 12 pp. (PHS) 95-1250 [PDF – 142 KB]