MENOMONIE — For the first time, Dunn County residents were able to get a better look at how alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and prescription drugs are being used by children and young adults in the county.
The Dunn County Partnership for Youth has compiled data from three of the four school districts in Dunn County, UW-Stout, the state and the nation. A community data gathering meeting this week shared the results.
Kathy Asper, manager of prevention services at Arbor Place, said the data will provide a foundation for the future.
A focal point for Asper was a high percentage of tobacco sales to minors.
A compliance check in 2015 showed 10 percent of businesses did not check minors before selling tobacco to them. In 2016, the number rose to 18 percent, and in 2017 it jumped to 32 percent. Compared with similar compliance check totals in other counties, Dunn County is high, Asper said.
“We want to dig in much more and ask why that might be,” she said.
Dunn County Sheriff Dennis Smith noticed that tobacco use by sophomores to seniors in high school is above the state and national average.
According to the data, 9 percent of sophomores surveyed said they had smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days. That number compares with the state data of 7 percent and the national data of 8 percent. Those numbers increase at the senior level with 25 percent surveyed. State data for surveyed seniors show 21 percent and national data show 14 percent.
Emma McGovern, a Menomonie High School sophomore, was struck by how little people in attendance understood why teens are turning to drugs and alcohol.
“Students use and abuse drugs because they are sad,” she said.
In the future, she would like to see data on whether teens are using drugs and alcohol because of depression. It could lead to a more direct approach to treatment, she said.
Menomonie Middle School principal Bart Boettcher said that he was concerned about the drop in perception of harm with smoking marijuana. The data show that 76 percent of seventh-grade students surveyed stated smoking marijuana was a moderate to high risk. That steadily drops to 51 percent with twelfth-grade students.
“It’s important for all of us to look at this and use it to inform,” he said.
Some in attendance asked if Dunn County should be putting more effort into curbing marijuana use because the opinions on the issue nationally have been moving toward pro-marijuana.
Underage drinking cases have continued to drop. In 2015, there were 38 underage drinking cases from children younger than 16 and 694 cases from children 17 or older. Last year that dropped to 15 cases younger than 16 and 491 cases from children 17 or older.
Asper said that the data isn’t perfect. The survey circulated didn’t ask about methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine or the origin for how teens acquired the drugs or alcohol.
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