Pubdate: Thu, 08 Nov 2007
Source: Times Argus (Barre, VT)
Copyright: 2007 The Associated Press
Author: Dave Gram, Associated Press
Bookmark: (Marijuana)


MONTPELIER -- Fewer of Vermont's young people are smoking marijuana
and binge drinking than eight years ago, but the state is still above
the national averages on both counts, officials said Wednesday.

Gov. Jim Douglas joined officials from the Health and Education
departments to release results from the 2007 Vermont Youth Risk
Behavior Survey, which asked more than 8,000 students from around the
state about a range of behaviors ranging from sexual activity to
riding in cars without seat belts.

"This report is encouraging, first and foremost," Douglas said. "It
shows a continual and significant shift in how serious young people
are about avoiding high-risk behavior."

Among the key findings from the biennial survey of eighth through 12th

16 percent of Vermont youth had smoked tobacco within the previous 30
days, down from 31 percent in 1999.

75 percent of kids think it's wrong to smoke, up from 57 percent eight
years ago.

39 percent of students reported drinking alcohol, down from 46 percent
in 1999.

21 percent said they had used marijuana, down from 30 percent in

Worrisome trends for Douglas, Deputy Health Commissioner Christine
Finley and Education Commissioner Richard Cate were that more than 25
percent of young people were rated as obese, and some 36 percent were
spending three or more hours a day in front of a screen -- watching
TV, playing video games or using a computer for fun. The marijuana and
binge-drinking numbers were higher for Vermont's young people than for
their peers nationwide. Health officials pointed to maps showing
state-by-state comparisons gleaned from national surveys by the
federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services

One map on the SAMHSA Web site depicted all six New England states,
Montana and Oregon as leading the nation in marijuana use by their
youth. Another showed Vermont in the second-highest-ranking category
for binge drinking.

The Health Department's Finley said she did not have a good
explanation on why Vermont youth would be above the national average
in marijuana use.

Results from the survey were released two days after the United Health
Foundation and two other national groups released a state-by-state
ranking that found Vermont to be the healthiest state in the country.

The youth survey also found:

83 percent of kids said they use seat belts, up from 77 percent in

37 percent of students said they had had sex, down from 53 percent in
1993 but unchanged from 38 percent in 1999.

89 percent said they had an adult in their life they can turn to for
help and advice.