TEEN HEALTH: Survey Looks At Health Of San Diego Youth
San Diego high school students were "more likely to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol" in 1997 than in previous years, but said they felt safer overall in school, according to the new San Diego Youth Risk Behavior survey, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Schmidt, 2/25). The survey, which was developed by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, is conducted every two years to measure behaviors that put teens at risk for disease, injury or death. San Diego Schools Superintendent Bertha Pendleton said, "Clearly we are moving in the right direction in regard to the safety, health and well-being of our students (release, 2/24). However, she said that in the areas of "tobacco and substance abuse, there is "a lot of work to do" (Union-Tribune, 2/25).
Just The Facts
The survey found that in 1997, 24.2% of high school students reported cigarette use, versus 23.8% in 1995. However, substance abuse among high school students was found to have leveled off. More students said they had tried marijuana, but fewer said they are current users, and the number of students who said they had tried cocaine was unchanged, with fewer current users. However, the number who said they had tried alcohol was up from 74% in 1995 to 76.1% in 1997. About 47% of students said they were current users of alcohol, versus 44% in 1995. Jack Campana, director of Comprehensive Health, Physical Education and Wellness for San Diego City Schools, said, "There is a direct correlation between students who are drinkers and other high risk and often deadly activities." He added, "The use of tobacco among young people should also send up a red flag among parents" (release, 2/24).
Cause For Concern
At a news conference Tuesday, Robert Ross, director of county health services, said, "This is alarming news for the community." County Supervisor Ron Roberts pointed a finger at beer companies who appeal to youth through advertisements, "complaining that the Budweiser frogs are better known among kids than Smokey Bear." Roberts noted, "This makes our jobs even harder to bring some fundamental change in these areas" (Union-Tribune, 2/25).
Some Good News
The survey did find a decrease in sexual activity among teenagers. In 1997, just under 45% of high school students reported ever having sexual intercourse, versus 48% in 1991. However, there are slightly more students who say they are currently sexually active than in 1995, with a higher percentage of female students reporting sexual activity than male students. Campana said, "We can report the majority of high school students are not sexually active." He added, "Sexual behavior is on a steady decline since the survey was first taken in 1991" (release, 2/24).