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    Youth Smoking, Drinking Down in Vermont

    Health Department is working with parents to improve behavior.

    MONTPELIER, Vt. -- Smoking by young people in Vermont dropped 44 percent in the last six years, and drinking has dropped 22 percent, the latest Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey found.

    The same survey found that 75 percent of students talk with their parents about school every day and two-thirds get regular exercise, reports the Rutland (Vt.) Herald.

    "I'm very encouraged by this year's survey results," said Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Paul Jarris. "We are seeing significant decreases in many risk behaviors."

    The risk survey is designed to detect changes in youth behavior so that adults, parents and educators can start talking with young people about the choices they make. Jarris said Health Department officials have been working with parents and educators across the state to change behavior.

    The Youth Risk Behavior Survey is conducted every two years in participating supervisory unions throughout the state. In 2003, 31,814 eighth- and 12th-grade students in 153 Vermont schools participated in the survey. The results were calculated from answers provided by a representative sample of 8,081 students.

    Among this year's findings:
    * Cigarette smoking continues to decline, especially among younger students. The survey found that 18 percent of students smoked before age 13, down from 21 percent in 2001 and 28 percent in 1999.
    * Students are finding it harder to get cigarettes. The survey found that 69 percent of students reported that it was easy to get cigarettes compared to 74 percent in 1999.
    * Alcohol use is declining. The survey found that 39 percent of students drink alcohol, down from 50 percent in 1997.
    * A quarter of students used marijuana, relatively unchanged from 26 percent.
    * Seventy-five percent of students talked with their parents about school every day.
    * Thirty-five percent of students spend three or more hours per school day watching TV, playing video games or using the computer for fun.

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