US Pharm. 2008;33(3):12.

Tobacco use among adolescents increases the risk of smoking-related disease and premature death (more than five million of today's adolescent smokers will die from tobacco-related disease). Alcohol use is associated with motor vehicle accidents, school and workplace problems, fighting, and crime; early onset of heavy drinking (five or more alcoholic beverages in a row or on a single occasion in the past two weeks) increases the likelihood. Cocaine use is linked to eating disorders, heart attacks, and strokes. Marijuana use poses cognitive and other health risks, including damaged pulmonary function from chronic use. Hallucinogens can affect brain chemistry and impair memory and learning. Early sexual activity is associated with emotional and physical health risks. The following data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are especially important in light of these consequences.

Cigarette Smoking
Four percent of 8th-graders, 8% of 10th-graders, and 12% of 12th-graders reported smoking cigarettes daily in 2006, which is approximately 50% lower than the respective rates reported in 1995. Seven percent of male and 8% of female 10th-graders reported daily smoking. Fifteen percent of 12th-grade white students smoked daily, compared with 6% of black 12th-graders and 7% of Hispanic 12th-graders.

Alcohol Use
Heavy drinking declined from 15% in 1995 to 11% in 2006 for 8th-graders, 24% to 22% for 10th-graders, and 30% to 25% for 12th-graders. Heavy drinking was reported by 29% of 12th-grade boys and 22% of 12th-grade girls. For 10th-graders and 12th-graders in 2006, the percentage of white students and Hispanic students who were heavy drinkers (23%) was approximately double the percentage of black students.

Illicit Drug Use
In 2006, 8% of 8th-graders, 17% of 10th-graders, and 22% of 12th-graders reported using illicit drugs in the past 30 days. Rates were similar between boys and girls. Past-30-day use has declined from a peak of 15% for 8th-graders and 23% for 10th-graders in 1996 and a peak of 26% for 12th-graders in 1997.

Sexual Activity
The proportion of students who reported ever having had sexual intercourse declined significantly from 1991 (54%) to 2001 (46%) and has remained stable through 2005. Rates declined from 1991 through 2005 for white students and black students, but did not change significantly among Hispanic students. Thirty-four percent of 9th-graders in 2005 reported ever having had intercourse, versus 63% of 12th-graders. In 2005, 18% of students who had had sexual intercourse in the past three months had used birth control pills before their last sexual intercourse (not significantly different from 1991); 63% (an increase from 46% in 1991) of students had used condoms.

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