New numbers show South Dakota has a long way to go in keeping tobacco and alcohol out of the hands of teenagers. In fact, teens across the state are far more likely to smoke, chew tobacco and drink than the national average.
The graphs and charts of the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey show some attention-grabbing stats for high-school-aged South Dakotans. When it comes to tobacco use, 23 percent of teens across the state smoke, which is above the national average of 18 percent. Nearly 15 percent of South Dakota teens chew tobacco, nearly double the national average.
"The tobacco usage is still there, whether it's in cigarettes or chewing tobacco. I think there's been progress made in awareness and education that's been put forth," Darcy Jensen of Prairie View Prevention Services said.
The progress Jensen is speaking of is because those numbers used to be higher in South Dakota. The number of teens drinking is also on the decline. However 26 percent of South Dakota teens admit to the dangerous activity. That's another statistic above the national average.
"I think we need to take those numbers apart and look at what ages and what gender and then begin to formulate strategies based on each individual community," Jensen said.
Jensen says that targeted and focused work is what is needed to keep those numbers on the decline, and perhaps get South Dakota under the nationwide numbers. And as prevention services formulate their campaigns, she adds that the best work starts at home.
"'As a parent, what can I do?' That would be asking my son or daughter where they are going to be at night. Making sure we've had that conversation that we don't allow drinking and driving and we don't allow drinking until you're 21 and talking about the consequences if that does happen," Jensen said.
One trend in the survey is that tobacco and alcohol use is on the rise among girls. Jensen says that may not mean use is actually on the rise, rather more girls and women are admitting to usage which was once thought of as a primarily male activity.