New youth survey shows progress, some concerns

Nov 3, 2015

State school superintendent Kirsten Baesler holding a news conference in the Capitol to discuss the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The new state Youth Risk Behavioral Survey has been released.

And state school superintendent Kirsten Baesler says the trends look good.

"The results show a substantial drop in tobacco use among our high school students," Baesler told Capitol reporters. She says it's also true about alcohol use.

"There's less binge drinking among our young people," Baesler said. "There is less marijuana smoking, and prescription drug abuse."

However, Baesler says there were a couple of troubling trends – concerning students having suicidal thoughts.

"Nine percent of the students who took part in the survey said they had attempted suicide at least once in the past year," Baesler said. "Fourteen percent planned a suicide attempt. Twenty-seven percent said they felt sad or hopeless daily for two or more weeks during that past year. We need to work to change those numbers."

Baesler says the Department of Public Instruction is preparing training for educators – to help them identify students who may be at risk of suicide.

Although tobacco use was down, more than 22 percent of students said they had tried "e-cigarettes" or other "vaping" products. Jeanne Prom of the North Dakota Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy says that number is a concern.

"Nicotine is one of the most highly addictive drugs," said Prom. "And a curious experiment with an e-cigarette could lead kids into an addiction of any form of nicotine."

Prom said a recent study published by the American Medical Assocition shows high school students using e-cigarettes were more likely to begin using regular cigarettes.

"This is alarming," Prom said.

Prom says the Center is supporting legislative efforts – as well as local government efforts – to try and keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of high school students.