ATLANTA -- Despite years of government-funded media campaigns urging teen-agers to stay clean and sober, cocaine, marijuana and cigarette use among high school students increased during the 1990s, according to a new federal study.
Alcohol use has remained steady since 1991 and other risky behavior was down among teens, according to the study released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For example, fewer teens are having sex and those who do are more likely to use condoms. Additionally, more students wear seat belts and fewer are carrying weapons or contemplating suicide, the study said.
''There is reason to feel optimistic about many of the trends in risk behaviors among our young people,'' CDC Director Jeffrey Koplan said. ''However, we have much left to do. Too many of our children are still engaging in activities that put them at risk for health problems now and into adulthood.''
Every two years since 1991, the CDC has distributed questionnaires to a scientific sampling of students to measure behavior that endangers their health. The current survey involved 15,349 students in grades nine through 12.
In 1991, 14.7 percent of students surveyed said they use marijuana. That number steadily increased to 26.7 percent in 1999. Students who said they have tried marijuana at least once increased from 31.3 percent to 47.2 percent over the same time.
In 1991, 1.7 percent of the students surveyed said they used cocaine at least once in the prior month. By 1999, that number rose to 4 percent. Those who had at least tried cocaine increased from 5.9 percent in 1991 to 9.5 percent in 1999.
Howard Simon, spokesman for the New York-based Partnership for a Drug-Free America, said the past decade brought increased drug use among teen-agers, but he expects more recent figures will show improvement.
''We have reversed those trends and started to edge back down just in the last year,'' he said. ''But don't get me wrong, we're still at the top of a very dangerous and disturbing mountain.''
The study also suggests that more teens appear to be smoking.
In 1991, 27.5 percent of the students surveyed reported they had smoked at least once in the previous month. That increased to 36.4 percent in 1997 then dropped to 34.8 percent last year. Frequent cigarette use climbed from 12.7 percent to 16.8 percent over the past decade.
''I think 35 percent is alarmingly high, especially with all that we know about the devastating affects of tobacco use,'' said Cassandra Welch, spokeswoman for the American Lung Association.
She said the indication that tobacco use may have peaked in 1997 is a good sign that efforts to discourage smoking may be working.
In other trends, fewer high school students said they have had sex, a trend that gradually decreased from 54.1 percent in 1991 to 49.9 percent in 1999. The number of students who said they were currently sexually active remained fairly consistent since 1991 at around 36 percent. However, more reported using a condom -- 58 percent in 1999 compared to 46.2 percent in 1991.
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