County kids smarter about tobacco, alcohol

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Children in Marion County are making healthier choices than their peers statewide when it comes to tobacco use and binge drinking, but they continue to suffer a higher rate of violent deaths.

Those were some of the key findings of the 2007 Kansas Kids Count data released this week. The data were based on surveys of students in grades six, eight, 10 and 12 conducted in 2006.


In regard to tobacco use, only 8.03 percent of students in Marion County reported using cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in the last 30 days. That is decrease of 0.37 percent from the previous year.

The percentage of students statewide is 14.91 percent, and the percentage in ?peer? counties?those with a similar population density as Marion County?is 16.59 percent.

Across the board, the percentage of students using tobacco continues is decreasing. In 2002, the percentage was 12.40 in Marion County, 19.75 in peer counties and 17.50 state?wide.

Similarly, only 8.56 percent of Marion County students reported they participated in binge drinking, defined as having five or more consecutive alcoholic drinks on at least one occasion in the past two weeks.

In peer counties, 17.26 percent said they participated in binge drinking and the statewide percentage was 16.70.

The percent of students reporting binge drinking in Marion County is down for a second consecutive year after an upward spike in 2004 to 13.3 percent. The percent in 2002 was 12.5, then 10.3 in 2003. Last year it was 10.0.

Statewide, the percent of students reporting binge drinking continued its slight downward trend over the past five years, from 17.9 to 16.7. In peer counties, the percentage has decreased from 19.47 in 2002 to 17.26 in 2006.

Linda Ogden, director of the Communities in Schools program and the Marion County contact person for the Kids Count project, credited a unified effort on many fronts and over a long period of time for the healthy choices been made.

?It?s really a combination of good things,? she said. ?And we?re just kind of blessed with good kids here.

?But you also have to stay on top of it because it fluctuates from year to year,? Ogden added. ?You can?t ever pat yourself on the back, really, and sit back and say you?re done. There?s always something that sort of thwarts the success.?

Marion County continues to be above the norm for teens 15 to 19 years old who meet a violent death, which is defined as suicide, homicide or motor-vehicle accidents.

In 2006, the death rate in this county was 124.7 per 100,000 youth. Meanwhile, the state rate is 47.0 and the peer rate 95.0.

?Regardless of whether it?s per 100,000, we?ve always been higher,? said Ogden, who credited most violent deaths in the county to vehicle accidents.

?I think that?s just due to teens who are going to take more chances, and we?ve got rural gravel roads and variable driving conditions?and they drive a lot because you have to drive everywhere to do anything around here.?

Ogden added that the way the data is collected can be confusing.

?You have to almost take the general message that there are some accidental deaths that occur and that we need to be aware that for whatever reasons, we still have kids die in Marion County.?

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