Pubdate: Tue, 23 Oct 2007
Source: Daily Reflector (Greenville, NC)
Copyright: 2007 Daily Reflector
Bookmark: (Youth)


Pitt County received mixed results from a recent survey of high 
school and middle school students about their use of tobacco, alcohol 
and narcotics. While progress was made deterring children from 
smoking, students admitted a greater willingness to engage in other 
risky and potentially harmful behavior. That fact is cause for 
concern, but also for optimism. The declining smoking rate indicates 
that children are listening to messages of deterrence and behaving 
accordingly. By expanding those efforts to explain the ill effects of 
alcohol and drugs, Pitt County might be able to make strides in 
protecting kids from the danger of substance abuse.

Last spring, a coalition of local medical organizations fighting 
substance abuse surveyed nearly 7,000 Pitt County middle and high 
school students to determine their behavior patterns in regard to 
drugs, alcohol and tobacco. The results, presented at a breakfast for 
educators and local leaders, demonstrated a decidedly mixed 
conclusion about how schoolchildren view those substances since a 
similar survey in 2005.

The report showed a slight decline in the use of tobacco, with 18.3 
percent of students admitting to smoking a cigarette in the past 30 
days compared to 18.6 percent two years ago. Some 86 percent of those 
surveyed said they believed tobacco poses a moderate or great risk to 
their health. One can reasonably conclude that warnings about smoking 
and its dangerous effects have taken their toll and produced results.

Sadly, the same cannot be said about alcohol or marijuana use. About 
73 percent of students said alcohol posed a significant health risk 
to their health or well being, and only 72.3 percent said the same 
about marijuana. Alcohol use rose among the students, from 28.7 
percent in 2005 to 32.2 percent this year, as did marijuana use, from 
17.8 percent to 20.6 percent in 2007. Youth in Pitt County, and 
across the country, find themselves receiving widely varying messages 
about the health threat posed by smoking, drinking and drug use. 
While anti-smoking ads are pervasive, cigarettes are virtually 
ubiquitous in the entertainment industry. Beer and other alcoholic 
beverages are widely marketed -- those businesses invest heavily in 
NASCAR, for instance. And pot smoking no longer seems to have the 
social stigma of the counterculture as it once did.

But protecting this community's youth depends on helping them sort 
through that torrent of media to make informed choices. It means 
parents must have serious, sometimes difficult, conversations with 
their children and encourage questions and discussion on the matter. 
And it means striving to reinforce the message of deterrence in 
schools, as well. Pitt County can be pleased in a slight decline in 
tobacco use, but it should not be satisfied. Now is the time for 
heavy lifting and harder work because both are clearly needed.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman