As Ohio and other states consider signing a landmark settlement with the tobacco industry that is hoped to curb tobacco use among the nation's youth, high school seniors in the Dayton area report that cigarettes are the drug they use most often on a daily basis.
Nearly one-fourth (23.3%) of Dayton-area 12th-graders smoke cigarettes on a daily basis, according to the latest Dayton Area Drug Survey (DADS); 14.7% smoke half a pack or more per day. More than two-thirds (67.8%) smoked cigarettes at least once in their lives. Among those who smoke, 22% reported that they tried to stop but couldn't. "Clearly, the next generation of 'replacement' smokers are out there. Anti-tobacco efforts aimed at youth will have to get a lot better to make a significant dent in these numbers," says Russel Falck, assistant professor of community health at Wright State University School of Medicine, who designed the local survey.
DADS is a collaborative effort of the Substance Abuse Intervention Programs (SAIP) at Wright State University School of Medicine, United Health Services (UHS) and Dayton-area school districts. Data processing was provided by Wright State's Statistical Consulting Center. DADS is supported, in part, by the Theda Clark Smith Family Foundation, Inc. DADS began as an annual survey in 1990 and has been conducted biennially since 1994.
Researchers surveyed 1,933 students who were seniors in February 1998 at 12 high schools in Montgomery and Greene counties. In addition, 2834 ninth graders and 2081 seventh graders participated in the project. The students responded anonymously to a 81-item, self-report questionnaire.
According to Falck, the 1998 survey found that lifetime use of drugs such as alcohol, tobacco and marijuana increased while daily use remained the same or declined slightly. For example, 84.1% of 1998 seniors reported using alcohol at least once in their lives (lifetime use), compared to 81.8% in 1996. In 1998, 28.7% reported having five or more drinks at least once in the two weeks prior to the survey, compared to 32.9% in 1996.
Other results of the 1998 DADS include:
For the first time since the survey has been conducted, more than half (51.4%) of 12th graders reported using marijuana at least once in their lives.
19.7% of 12th graders reported lifetime use of hallucinogens such as LSD.
9.5% reported using cocaine, and 5.5% reported using crack-cocaine, at least once in their lives.
One bright spot in the 1998 survey results, according to Falck, is a general decline in the number of 7th graders who reported using alcohol, tobacco and marijuana at least once in their lives. "This years' DADS data present a very mixed picture of what is happening in this community with youthful drug use. Although some progress has been made, the high levels of use reported once again point out the necessity of coming together as a community to formulate practical strategies to address the problem," says Harvey Siegal, Ph.D., SAIP director at Wright State. 'The data show that the overwhelming majority (98%) of young people who use alcohol or other drugs do so in someone's home, almost always (93% of the time) on weekends. These data provide a clear message for parents who want to reduce the chances of their children's involvement with alcohol and other drugs: know where your children are and who they are with," says John North, UHS executive director.