Pubdate: Thu, 08 Nov 2007 Source: Times Argus (Barre, VT) Copyright: 2007 The Associated Press Contact: http://www.timesargus.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/893 Author: Dave Gram, Associated Press Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/pot.htm (Marijuana) SMOKING POT, BINGE DRINKING DOWN IN STATE, SURVEY FINDS 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 graders: 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 1999. 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 Administration. 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 1999. 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.