Pubdate: Wed, 18 Dec 2002
Source: Times and Democrat, The (SC)
Contact:  2002, The Times and Democrat


Good news from the war on drugs: American teenagers are cutting their use 
of illicit drugs, cigarettes and alcohol.

So says a government-sponsored study conducted by the University of 
Michigan's Institute for Social Research. The survey of 8th-, 10th- and 
12th-graders has been done for the Department of Health and Human Services 
for 28 years.

Results from the 2002 Monitoring the Future study released Monday show more 
than half of 12th-graders have used an illicit drug. Thirty percent of 
12th-graders have used some drug other than marijuana, and 11 percent have 
used Ecstasy, a synthetic drug considered part hallucinogen and part 
amphetamine that has been linked to brain, heart and kidney damage.

Still, those figures are down from recent years. For example, Ecstasy use 
among 10th-graders in the past year declined from 6.2 percent to 4.9 percent.

More good news supports the findings: Retailers continue to reduce sales of 
tobacco to children under age 18, according to data from ported by the 
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Overall, the 
national retailer violation rate dropped to 16.3 percent in 2001 from 40.1 
percent in 1996.

The findings are based on reports submitted by states in response to 
federal law established in 1992 restricting access to tobacco by youth 
under age 18.

In 2001, 38 states achieved the overall 20 percent violation rate goal, and 
13 states and the District of Columbia achieved their negotiated target 
rates for 2001. Wisconsin was the only state that failed to meet its 
negotiated annual violation rate target, and agreed to commit additional 
state funds totaling $3,012,615 to enforcement efforts in order to avoid 
stringent penalties in the law.

Now for some perspective: Restricting access and using the law to keep 
legal and illegal drugs out of the hands of youth are but part of what it 
will take to prevent use and abuse.

As Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said of 
cigarettes, "It's a good sign that fewer stores are selling cigarettes to 
children, but we still have a long way to go if we hope to prevent another 
generation of smokers. Keeping tobacco out of the hands of children is one 
of the keys to preventing the unhealthy habit that too often causes heart 
disease and cancer later in life. All of us, including retailers, must 
remain committed to helping our youth make the healthy decision not to smoke."

The key is social acceptance and lack thereof. Cigarette use will continue 
to decline, but at a rate less than we'd hope. That is because of the 
highly addictive nature of the product.

Nonetheless, one has only to look at social limits placed on tobacco use 
and the stigma attached in so many instances to smoking. It's simply not 
"glamorous." And when it's no longer "cool," use declines.

Same with other drugs. The addiction factor will ensure that the problem 
doesn't go away, but it's the "word" that makes a difference. If a drug 
such as Ecstasy is deemed too dangerous, the crowd will move to something else.

Or maybe, no drug at all.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom