Youth smoking, drinking habits highlight state survey
Steamboat Springs — Correction: The name of the institution that administered the Healthy Kids Colorado survey has been corrected in this story.
Newly released results from the fall 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey paint a picture of substance use, safety and physical health habits of students in Routt County.
The survey by the Colorado School of Public Health at the Anschutz Medical Campus was administered to students at high schools and middle schools in Steamboat, South Routt and Hayden with the help of the Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, and results released last month have been compared to state averages and previous student surveys in search of trends.
Some of the more concerning statistics in the report surround alcohol and tobacco use, according to Grand Futures Executive Director Kate Elkins.
“I think the alcohol use was alarming to me,” Elkins said.
According to the survey, nearly 22 percent of Routt County high school students reported binge drinking five or more drinks in a row at least once in the last 30 days, higher than the state’s average of 16.6 percent. While the statistic is striking, it’s actually down from 2010, when 31 percent of high school students reported binge drinking.
Just over 20 percent of local high school students reported riding in a car driven by someone who had been drinking in the last 30 days, above the state average of 17.9 percent.
The question didn’t specify whether the driver was a fellow student or an adult or parent.
About 39 percent of high school students reported drinking alcohol in the last 30 days, and 69.4 percent said they had consumed alcohol at some point in their lives. Both figures were several percentage points above the state average, but not a significant difference from Routt County students surveyed in 2010 and 2012.
Elkins said the local resort culture could play a role in the alcohol statistics, as could societal norms and the advertising industry.
“Our culture is that alcohol is included at every event,” Elkins said.
Results from the survey will be disseminated by Grand Futures in an attempt to heighten community awareness about youth alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. The organization also will use the information to fine tune educational campaigns and prevention efforts.
Elkins and School Resource Officer Kristin Bantle spoke Wednesday at a public Parent Information Committee meeting at Steamboat Springs High School, sharing the results and talking about tobacco and marijuana products.
The two showed parents what various edible, liquid and smoked marijuana products look like and explained how potent they were and how school staff and law enforcement identify and discipline students found under the influence.
Elkins said she was disappointed to see that cigarette use among high school students increased, from 12 percent in 2012 to 14.3 percent in 2013 reporting they had smoked in the past 30 days, despite anti-smoking campaigns from Grand Futures and the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurses Association, as well as state and national tobacco prevention campaigns.
“It’s really alarming that this would go up,” Elkins said.
Routt County high school students also reported high use of chewing tobacco, snuff or dip in the last 30 days — nearly 15 percent, versus 6.4 percent in Colorado — a statistic Elkins said could be attributed to the number of ranching families and athletes in Routt County.
“That’s a great example of how powerful social norms can be,” she said.
The survey was administered by the University of Colorado for the first time in 2013, leading to a long lag time for results, Elkins said.
Although not all of the survey results were ideal, Elkins said that risky behaviors were down overall, a positive reflection of Grand Futures’ efforts.
Marijuana use decreased from previous surveys, with the number of high school students reporting use in the last 30 days at 15.7 percent, below the state average and down from 27 percent in 2010 and 19 percent in 2012.
“Overall, I am satisfied with the trends,” Elkins said.
The same survey will be given next fall at the same schools, as well as schools in Moffat County, Elkins said.
The full 2013 report can be found at http://www.grandfutures.org/data.
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Colorado’s House of Representatives on Monday passed House Bill 1232, which aims to provide a lower-cost, higher-quality health insurance option for the individual and small group markets on the state’s health insurance exchange.