There’s news worth celebrating, in case you missed it: Drug and alcohol use among Manhattan High students is down considerably, as is cigarette smoking.
The school board heard a report this week that might have been surprising. From 2000 to 2019, the percentage of high school kids who said they had used alcohol dropped from 55% to 27%. The figures for marijuana: A drop from 20% to 12%. For cigarettes, the number went from 36% to 8%.
This is survey data, and is therefore not entirely reliable. But there’s no reason we can see that reliability would have declined over two decades, so we can be pretty confident that the numbers are actually down.
That’s entirely good. Drug, alcohol and cigarette usage by anyone — particularly the kids of this community — is just bad. They damage physical and emotional health, and have long-term costs that we are all well aware of. The younger people start, the worse the long-term consequences.
Why are these statistics declining? We don’t exactly know the answer, but we can be certain it’s a combination of circumstances. Enforcement of laws, labeling of packages, peer pressure, mass media, perhaps even government programs, can contribute. It’s important to try to figure out what’s working; it’s also important to keep tracking the numbers.
Which brings us to vaping. That’s the one thing that’s going up dramatically, and it’s cause for concern. “Vaping” is the term for the use of electronic cigarettes, the little gizmos that vaporize chemicals — including nicotine, an addictive and harmful substance — so that users can inhale them. The percentage of kids in the survey who reported using them in the past 30 days tripled in the past three years.
It’s an epidemic in the making, and it needs to be battled with the best available tools. It’s worth noting that less than 10% of those surveyed said they had used vapes in the previous month, so there’s no need to panic. But the trend line is a serious matter.
Again, though, let’s remember that the good news outweighs the bad here, and let’s take that as an indication that we can solve these problems over the long haul.