Pubdate: Sat, 15 Oct 2005
Source: Brattleboro Reformer (VT)
Copyright: 2005 Brattleboro Publishing Co.
Author: Lisa Rathke, Associated Press
Bookmark: (Youth)


MONTPELIER -- Fewer Vermont youths are smoking, drinking or using
marijuana than in past years and more think it's wrong to do so,
according to state report released Friday.

Every two years the Department of Health surveys eighth to 12th
graders to determine how many students are engaging in behaviors that
affect their health, such as smoking, using drugs or wearing a seat
belt. This year 9,342 students participated from roughly 146 schools.

"Overall the good news is the vast majority of Vermont kids are making
healthy choices, living healthy life styles," Health Commissioner Paul
Jarris said Friday.

This year's report not only shows a decline in the rates of smoking,
the use of marijuana and alcohol but also a drop in the percentage of
kids who ride in cars with drunken drivers and a jump in seat belt

"We should congratulate young Vermonters for those very significant
trends," Gov. James Douglas said.

This year 16 percent of students reported smoking during the past 30
days, down from 31 percent in 1999. The percentage of eighth graders
who smoked dropped sharply from 22 percent in 1999 to 8 percent in

And students' perception about smoking has changed. The percentage of
students who think it's dangerous to smoke rose from 57 percent in
1999 to 78 percent this year.

Alcohol consumption also continues to decline but it's still too high,
Gov. James Douglas said Friday.

Thirty-seven percent of students drink, down from 46 percent in 1999.
Among eighth graders, alcohol use fell from 31 percent to 19 percent.
And the percentage of students who binge drink dropped from 29 percent
in 1999 to 21 percent. More young students also disapprove of
drinking, 72 percent of eight graders compared to 64 percent in 1999.

Marijuana use continues to fall off among students but the rate of
heroin and other drug use remains the same. The percentage of students
who used marijuana dropped from 32 percent in 1997 to 22 percent this
year. Of those, 8 percent of eighth graders reported to have smoked
pot, down from 17 percent in 1999. And a greater percentage -- 84
percent -- compared to 73 percent in 1999, think it's wrong to use the

But the report shows areas of concern.

Fewer students are eating five or more servings of fruit and
vegetables per day, 24 percent compared to 33 percent in 1999.

And the percentage of students who engage in physical education five
days at week at school has dropped from 24 percent in 1999 to 14
percent this year.

"We need to focus more on fitness and physical exercise," said
Douglas, who has made fitness among children a priority.

A reduction in the number of daily gym courses offered at schools has
contributed to this trend, Douglas said. It's important to remember
that children spend about a third of the day at school and have time
to exercise at home, he said.

"We can't put all the onus on the schools to address this problem," he

Kids spend too much time playing video games, watching television or
on the computer, Douglas said. Thirty-seven percent of students report
spending three or more hours per school day doing these things.

"It's a problem that parents and kids need to address in addition to
schools," Douglas said.
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