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Teens fighting less, smoking less and having less sex, but some bad habits are increasing

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Teenagers are fighting less, smoking less and having less sex, reveals a new federal government study.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, based on a 2013 survey, claims smoking had dropped to 15.7 percent, teens having sex dipped to 34 percent in 2013 compared with 38 percent in 1991, and just 25 percent of teens was involved in a physical fight compared with 42 percent compared to 22 years ago.

The data is encouraging, say federal officials.

"We are encouraged to see that high school students are making better choices in some areas like smoking and fighting," said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.

"I am also encouraged to see the reduction in the proportion of high school kids who are currently sexually active," he added. "We still think it's too high, but the trend is going in the right direction."

In addition, teenagers are embracing a healthier diet with a significant drop in the numbers drinking soda once or more times per day. In 2007, 34 percent of teens said they were drinking soda daily. That figure dropped to 27 percent in 2013.

But while they're fighting less, smoking less, and not having sex as much, teenagers are embracing one unhealthy habit: using smokeless tobacco products such as hookahs or e-cigarettes.

"Although this report doesn't have data on e-cigarette use among high school students, we know that e-cigarette use is skyrocketing, and we are concerned about that," Frieden said. "We are particularly concerned with e-cigarettes 're-glamorizing' smoking traditional cigarettes."

There's also some bad news given teenagers' sexual habits. While sexual activity is down, the numbers of teens having unprotected, condom-less sex has dropped from 63 percent in 2003 using condoms to 59 percent in 2013.

Teens also cop to more frequent texting while driving. The survey reports a big increase in the number of teen drivers emailing or texting on the road, with 41 percent reporting such behavior at least once in the past month in 2013.

"Texting while driving continues to be a concern," said Dr. Stephanie Zaza, director of CDC's division of adolescent and school health. "Teen drivers have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes," she noted.

Yet TV use among teens is down, states the report, with 32 percent of high school students logging in three hours a day in 2013 compared with 43 percent in 1999.

"It's encouraging that high school students are making better health choices such as not fighting, not smoking and not having sex," said Frieden.  "Way too many young people still smoke, and other areas such as texting while driving remain a challenge."

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