Pubdate: Tue, 27 Dec 2011
Source: Day, The (New London,CT)
Copyright: 2011 The Day Publishing Co.
Author: Julianne Hanckel


Tobacco Down, But Officials See Upward Trend For Marijuana

Ledyard - Results from the 2011 youth drug and alcohol survey, which
show that tobacco use among the town's seventh-through 12th-graders
is down but alcohol and marijuana use is trending upward, were
presented to members of the Board of Education last week.

"The survey asks some really good questions about alcohol, drugs and
tobacco use and gives us a baseline to determine if there are any
trends of concern," Superintendent of Schools Michael Graner said
Wednesday. "Overall, tobacco use is way down which is a good thing,
but the two areas of concern that I know the youth survey has looked
at throughout the region are marijuana use and alcohol use."

Earlier this year, 488 student surveys were distributed to classrooms
selected at random by researcher Archie Swindell of Groton's
Quantitative Services. In 2007, when the survey was first distributed,
366 students took it.

Recent alcohol use - meaning students had more than a sip of alcohol
for non-religious purposes in the past 30 days - is up one-half of a
percent among students in seventh and eighth grade compared to 2009. A
total of 5.6 percent of the students reported drinking alcohol.

Four years ago, when the survey was first given to seventh- and
eighth-grade students, 18.6 percent of them had consumed alcohol in
the past 30 days.

Recent alcohol use among ninth-through 12th-graders dipped slightly
over results from 2009.

Recent and lifetime cigarette use is down 5.1 percent and 5.7 percent,
respectively with high school students but has remained steady among
middle school students with 2.6 percent reporting recent smoking and
7.7 percent reporting long-term smoking.

"Cigarette smoking used to be a lot bigger of a problem than it is
now," Swindell said.

Swindell said the use of marijuana is trending downward among high
school students but increasing among middle school students.

"Marijuana has been a concern nationally but has not been true in the
high school, but may be becoming true in the middle school because
more kids are beginning to believe that marijuana is not as harmful as
they used to think," he said. "Ideally, you'd like to see kids delay
as long as possible."

Lifetime marijuana use is up 3.5 percent among seventh- and
eighth-graders compared to 2009 results but 3 percent less among high
school students. Among the town's ninth-graders, the age for
initiation to alcohol is up to 13.1 years over 2009 but the age for
initiation to marijuana is down from 14.6 years to 13.4 years.

Swindell said that even though the results showed good and steady
trends there needs to be initiatives to prevent increasing alcohol and
drug use. He said that new challenges like the increasing use of
prescription drugs are on the horizon and pointed to Ledyard's Safe
Teen Coalition as a way to further engage families, businesses and
schools for future efforts.

Formed in 2006 with the intention to reduce underage drinking, the
coalition has since blossomed, developing a youth advisory council,
establishing a "Party Patrol" telephone hot line, holding community
forums, distributing a biannual youth and parent survey and providing
outreach education.

"All of those efforts are aimed at trying to show students just how
dangerous this behavior is. I think we're making inroads but you never
want to be complacent with the data," Graner said. "We haven't seen
much change in the prevalence of drinking and drug use which is
reflective of the state and the nation, but you always want to see if
you can do better to make sure that both parents and students are
perceiving that these are very risky behaviors." 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D