Study shows decrease in risky behavior among Missouri youth

Thursday, October 2, 2008 | 7:22 p.m. CDT; updated 6:02 p.m. CDT, Friday, October 10, 2008


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COLUMBIA — Missouri high school students are now participating in fewer risky behaviors, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study found that smoking, marijuana and alcohol use have declined over the past 10 years. It also found fewer incidents of illegal drug dealing on school property.

The 2007 National Youth Risky Behavior Survey (YRBS), released every two years, surveyed more than 14,000 anonymous high school students, according to a CDC press release.

A comparison of survey data from 1997 to 2007 showed that:

  • The percentage of students who smoked an entire cigarette for the first time before age 13 decreased from 27.4 percent to 13.4 percent.
  • The percentage of those who smoked 20 or more cigarettes a day during the last 30 days dropped from 22.3 percent in 1997 to 14.8 percent in 2007.
  • The incidence of marijuana use one or more times during their life dropped from 46.3 percent to 35.9 percent.
  • The incidence of students offered, sold or given illegal drugs by someone on school property during the 12 months before the survey was conducted declined from 25.8 percent to 17.8 percent.
  • The percentages of students reporting drinking alcohol before before age 13, driving drunk or getting in a car with someone who was drinking alcohol has also decreased since 1997.

A number of groups have been working to educate Columbia youth on the effects of these risky behaviors.

The MU Wellness Center offers educational resources to those in high school and college who want more information on drug or alcohol abuse.

 "We are a prevention office," said Kim Dude, the center's director. "We have five or six events a week on campus."

One event, Alcohol Responsibility Month, takes place in October.

The center also advocates a smoke-free business policy and works with businesses to limit underage access to tobacco and alcohol.

"We helped to get the bars and restaurants smoke-free, and we are working on getting campus smoke-free," Dude said. "We also work with the community to limit access through carding because the problem is it is too easy to get."

The center has a list of resources on its Web site. The list is also available in the basement of Brady Commons.

"There is no silver bullet," Dude said. "We are here to support students and show them that their peers are making good choices."

The Youth Community Coalition, funded by the Drug Free Communities Support Program, is one of the 769 national programs that works with high school and college students.

Since December 2005, the coalition has participated in Red Ribbon Week, a nationwide effort for safe, healthy and drug-free communities from Oct. 23 to Oct. 31. It also has provided leadership training and planned alternative events for students.

"Our biggest goal is to increase awareness and help bring organization and implementation within groups about the use of tobacco and alcohol," said Becky Markt, youth coalition coordinator.

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