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Health Behaviors Improve Among Va. High School Students

April 26, 2016

State Health Commissioner emphasizes continued efforts to sustain the improvements

(Richmond, Va.) According to the results of the latest Virginia Youth Survey - which is jointly conducted by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY) – overall, among the over 350,000 high school students in Virginia, there are significant increases in those who practice healthy behavior over a four-year period (2011-2015).Virginia youth smoking stats

·         Virginia State Health Commissioner Marissa J. Levine, MD, MPH, FAAFP said “The upward trend of high school students avoiding risky behaviors such as injury/violence, cigarette smoking, alcohol and drug use is statistically significant because it has been observed over multiple years. Over the past 15 years, the percentage of Virginia High school students that currently smoke decreased more than 70%- from 29.6% to 8.2%. 

·         Tobacco use among students who currently smoke cigarettes (at least one during the last 30 days) decreased 45%.

·         Drug use among students who ever used drugs decreased across the board - cocaine (down 30%), heroin (down 47%), methamphetamines (down 38%) and ecstasy (down 38%).

·         Alcohol use among students who currently drink alcohol (had at least one drink in the last 30 days) decreased 23%.

·         Students who attempted suicide decreased 36%.

The survey also found that 83.2% of Virginia high school students and 94.4% of middle school students report that they are not current users of electronic vapor products such as e-cigarettes. These results are in line with national averages of high school and middle school students who are not current users of electronic vapor products. This is the first year that the Virginia Youth Survey has collected data on this emerging trend. The purchase and use of tobacco products and e-cigarettes by children under 18 years of age is prohibited under state law in Virginia.

“E-cigarette emissions are not harmless water vapor; the emissions can contain nicotine and other harmful chemicals. As such, we recommend that children be protected from exposure to the emissions from e-cigarettes and all consumers of such products should be cautioned that they may be exposed to varying levels of nicotine or other chemicals and contaminants in these products”, said Levine.

“We are thrilled that tobacco use among Virginia’s youth continues to be on the decline,” said VFHY Executive Director Marty Kilgore. “Our latest Virginia Youth Survey results demonstrate that tobacco prevention works and that Virginia’s kids are choosing healthy lifestyles. However, because new electronic nicotine delivery systems such as e-cigarettes with flavored liquids are gaining popularity among high school students, we must be constantly vigilant and continue to adjust to future trends in youth nicotine and tobacco use. We look forward to building on the successful youth prevention work we carry out with VDH and all of our other partner organizations statewide.”

For more information on the 2015 Virginia Youth Survey, visit