Tobacco Use Among Youths Shows Decline in Youth Risk Behavior Survey

January 16, 2004

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The West Virginia Board of Education today released the results of West Virginia’s 2003 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Behavior Survey (YRBS). According to the report, tobacco use among teens and smoking on school property has declined significantly in West Virginia while alcohol use and obesity among teens are on the rise.  

Some highlights from the 2003 West Virginia YRBS, and how it compares with the 1999 West Virginia YRBS are as follows:  

• 85 percent of high school students use seatbelts when riding in a car (7 percent increase) • 9 percent of high school students attempted suicide during the past 12 months (11 percent decrease); • 28.5 percent of high school students were current smokers (32 percent decrease); • 9.8 percent of high school students reported smoking on school property (49 percent decrease)  

“The West Virginia Department of Education is committed to providing a healthy and safe environment for our students in public schools and we intend to continue to place greater emphasis on health and physical wellness with students and staff. The bottom line, when analyzing these results, we realize that healthy students have a greater capacity to learn and are ultimately more successful in school and life,” said State Schools Superintendent David Stewart.  

One of the more positive changes in risk behaviors among youth in West Virginia is the reduction of tobacco use. The West Virginia Department of Education, in partnership with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau of Public Health and other youth tobacco prevention agencies such as the American Lung Association of West Virginia, and the West Virginia Youth Tobacco Prevention Campaign (RAZE), attribute the great reduction in tobacco use among high school students to the funding the West Virginia Legislature and Governor Bob Wise have provided to the youth tobacco prevention programs.  

“School-based tobacco prevention programs are essential to a comprehensive youth tobacco prevention initiative and we are seeing positive results of these efforts in education and the community with youth,” said Stewart. “We are making great strides in reducing tobacco use among West Virginia youth and building a healthy West Virginia.”  

The YRBS was administered to 1,748 students in 31 public high schools in West Virginia during the spring of 2003. Students completed a self-administered, anonymous, 99-item questionnaire. Survey procedures were designed to protect the privacy of students by allowing for anonymous and voluntary participation, along with parent notification. In this sample, a few classes from each participating school were given surveys.  

The YRBS is one component of the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This system was designed to focus the nation on behaviors among youth related to the leading causes of mortality and morbidity among both youth and adults and assess how these risk behaviors change over time.  

The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System measures behaviors that fall into six categories: behaviors that result in unintentional and intentional injuries; tobacco use; alcohol and other drug use; sexual behaviors that result in HIV infection, other sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies; dietary behaviors, and physical activity.  

For more information about the WV YRBS, contact Dean Lee, Coordinator of Tobacco Prevention in Education, at (304) 558-8830, or

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