Pubdate: Sun, 29 Nov 2009
Source: Burlington Free Press (VT)
Copyright: 2009 Burlington Free Press
Author: Nancy Remsen, Free Press Staff Writer
Cited: 2009 Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey:
Bookmark: (Youth)


A 2009 survey of 11,000 Vermont students in eighth  through 12th
grades found a change in attitude about  the risks of smoking and
marijuana that worries state  health officials.

In the Department of Health's Youth Risk Behavior  Survey two years
ago, 72 percent of Vermont school-age  teenagers said they believed
there was "great risk in  people harming themselves" from smoking one
or more  packs of cigarettes a day. In this year's survey, the
percentage dropped to 67 percent.

Likewise, 51 percent of the students saw great risk of  harm from
smoking marijuana regularly, compared with 42  percent in the most
recent survey.

"When we see the attitude more accepting and less  perceived risk of
harm, we are worried increased use  will follow," said Barbara
Cimaglio, deputy health  commissioner for alcohol and drug-abuse
programs. "The  harmful consequences of smoking tobacco and marijuana
is a public-health message that must be delivered by  parents and
communities and understood by young  people."

The state has been conducting surveys of risky behavior  among the
state's youth every other year since 1993.  The survey asks students
about use of bicycle helmets  and seatbelts, fighting and abuse,
sexual activity and  use of contraceptive measures, nutrition and
physical  activity and whether they talk to their parents.

The changing view about the harmfulness of smoking  reverses a 10-year
trend in which more and more  students saw risks in tobacco use.

The percentage of youth who smoke has remained at 16  percent since
2003 but had declined precipitously from  38 percent in 1995.
Officials don't want to see that  trend reversed, Cimaglio said.

The survey found 22 percent of all students had used  marijuana at
least once in the past 30 days, down from  32 percent in 1997 --
another trend officials would  like to see continue rather than reverse.

Cimaglio noted two other disturbing indicators in the  survey,
although the data had changed little from 2007.  Nearly one quarter of
the students reporting riding in  a vehicle with a drinking driver,
and a nearly equal  percentage said they had been in a vehicle when
someone  who had used marijuana was behind the wheel.

The imbibing or marijuana-smoking drivers could be  parents or
friends, Cimaglio noted. Regardless of who  it is, the worrisome
behavior "is something we want to  focus on," she said.

The Health Department plans a campaign in the spring to  spotlight
"how parents can support their children in  making good choices,"
Cimaglio said. The campaign will  include radio and Internet messages
along with  initiatives developed by community organizations. The
effort will be paid for under a $12 million, five-year  federal
Strategic Prevention Framework grant.

The campaign will build on some strengths identified in  the survey,
Cimaglio said, citing the fact that 77  percent of the students
reported they talked with their  parents, and 72 percent reported
eating meals with  their families at least three times a week. "Those
are  really protective factors," she said.


The Department of Health just released its latest  survey of more than
11,000 Vermont students in eighth  through 12th grade that analyzes
risky behaviors.  Surveys have been conducted every other year since
1993. To read the report, go 

Here are some highlights:

- - ELECTRONIC BULLYING: 15 percent report experiencing  electronic
bullying in the past year. This is the first  time this question has
been asked.

- - BULLYING: 20 percent report bullying someone in the  past 30 days,
while 17 percent report being bullied.

- - PHYSICAL FIGHTS: 27 percent report being in a  physical fight in the
past year, with the greatest  incidence reported among eighth graders.

- - BIKE HELMETS: 63 percent rarely or never wear bike  helmets, up from
55 percent two years ago. Boys are  less likely than girls to wear

- - SUICIDE: 9 percent report making a plan about how to  commit
suicide, and 4 percent report trying. That's  down from a peak in
1995, when 22 percent reported  planning how to commit suicide and 10
percent said they  tried.

- - BINGE DRINKING: 20 percent report binge drinking in  the past month.
Bingeing is having five or more drinks  over a couple of hours. The
percentage is down from 31  percent in 1997.

- - HIV TEST: 10 percent reported they had been tested  for HIV, the
virus that causes AIDS.

- - EXERCISE: 24 percent exercised 60 minutes every day,  while 12
percent said reported no days in the past week  when they exercised
for 60 minutes.

- - TV & COMPUTER GAMES: 38 percent spent more than three  hours a day
watching TV, playing video games or using  the computer for fun. 
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D