High school tobacco use and drinking declined between 2009 and 2011, but it’s still easy for Vermont teens to get booze when they want it. Those are among the results of the 2011 Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which was released Wednesday during a news conference at the Statehouse.
Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen and Vermont Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca said they were heartened by the decline in drinking and by a drop in cigarette smoking, which they attributed to broad community prevention work and teens making the right choices.
The state wants to see the teen drinking rate decline further, but that will be difficult, Chen said. “Zero would be ideal but I’m a realist,” he said.
To make more progress, families need to help school officials, officials said.
The survey showed:
• 60 percent of high school students reported ever drinking alcohol in 2011, down from 66 percent in 2009.
• 73 percent think alcohol is easy to get.
• 24 percent ever smoked a whole cigarette, down from 31 percent in 2009.
• 67 percent think cigarettes are easy to get.
Many of the results were good news-bad news scenarios. Prescription drug misuse declined but marijuana use remained steady and is apparently more common among teens than cigarette smoking. About 24 percent of students reported using marijuana in the past 30 days, unchanged from 2009, and 62 percent said marijuana is easy to get. Only 3 percent of students reported smoking cigarettes in the past 30 days.
Two students who work on a teen sobriety campaign at Twin Valley High School in Wilmington were invited by state officials to attend the press conference to share their opinions and talk strategy. Connor Hunt, a 17-year-old senior, and Jordan LaBonte, a 16-year-old junior, helped organize the “Audacious” campaign that uses stickers and T-shirts to emphasize the number of teens who don’t drink or use drugs. They recruited other students to lead by example.
“The whole object was to create this core group of 10 to 11 people that are dedicated to saying, I’m substance free,” Hunt said.