Youth Risk Behavior Survey Shows Changing Perceptions of Unhealthy Behaviors

For Immediate Release:  Nov. 25, 2009
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health

BURLINGTON – Fewer young Vermonters (8th to 12th graders) believe tobacco and marijuana are harmful than they did two years ago, according to the 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a survey of more than 11,000 students conducted every two years by the Vermont Departments of Health and Education.

“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, one person at a time,” said Barbara Cimaglio, deputy commissioner for alcohol & drug abuse programs. “There can’t be any ‘let up’ on this issue.”

The Health Department continues to work with coalitions of youth, parents, schools, community groups, law enforcement and health care providers around the state through Governor Jim Douglas’ D.E.T.E.R. (Drug Education, Treatment, Enforcement & Rehabilitation) program. DETER’s focus is on the need for a comprehensive strategy to address substance abuse problems with an emphasis not just on enforcement but also on treatment, education and rehabilitation.

The 2009 survey results revealed that 67 percent of Vermont students perceived great risk of harm from smoking tobacco, compared to 72 percent in 2007. Forty-two percent of students perceived great risk of harm from regular marijuana use in 2009, compared to 51 percent in 2007.

By contrast, actual smoking rates among young people in Vermont – which peaked at 38 percent in 1995 has steadily declined to 16 percent in 2009. A primary reason, according to Cimaglio, was a sustained, comprehensive public health effort that was supported by Vermonters statewide.

“The Health Department celebrates the youth smoking rate being cut in half during the past 14 years as a major public health victory,” Cimaglio said. “It’s one of the main reasons we’re routinely ranked among the healthiest states in the nation.”

Marijuana use in Vermont is among the highest in the nation with 22 percent of students surveyed reporting that they smoked marijuana in the past 30 days. This percentage has remained nearly unchanged since 2005. Alcohol use has also held steady with 36 percent reporting consumption in the past 30 days, and 20 percent reporting that they binged, or had five or more drinks in a row.

“Marijuana use and binge drinking carry a heavy price tag on a person’s health not just in the short term but throughout their adult lives,” Cimaglio said.
Vermont youth reported having a strong family environment: 77 percent of students reported that they talk to their parents about school at least once a week, and 89 percent reported they have an adult in their life they can turn to for help and advice.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey measures the prevalence of behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death, disease and injury among young people. The survey is conducted by the Vermont Departments of Health and Education with 144 schools participating. Survey data is collected and the results have been reported every two years since 1993.

To review the 2009 survey visit:


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