When it comes to reducing youth smoking, some regions of the state have made much more progress than others.
That’s the word from the State Agency of Education, which has a released a statewide map showing the disparity of youth smoking rates in Vermont.
The highest rates can be found in North Country Supervisory Union, serving Newport and surrounding towns, and in Rutland Windsor Supervisory Union. In those districts, 24 percent of high school students said in a 2013 survey that they had smoked at least one cigarette in the last 30 days.
Chittenden South Supervisory Union and Franklin West Supervisory Union reported the lowest smoking rates, at 6 percent.
Middle Schoolers are less likely to light up, according to state data. The rate of middle school students in Vermont who reported having smoked one or more times in the last 30 days is 2 percent. In that age group, six supervisory unions had smoking rates over 5 percent; 19 supervisory unions had smoking rates among middle school students of less than 2 percent.
“When it comes to youth smoking in Vermont, it is truly a good-news, bad-news story,” said Bob Uerz, the Agency’s Tobacco Use Prevention Coordinator. “Overall, we have reduced smoking by youth statewide, but in some regions of the state, almost a quarter of our students identify themselves as smokers.”
In response to these disparities, the state is changing the way it allocates funding to schools trying to prevent youth smoking.
In the past, non-competitive grants were available to any supervisory union willing to try one strategy related to curriculum, assessment, policy, youth asset development, teen cessation and community engagement. This school year, 52 supervisory unions and school districts each got a base grant of $5,800.
But in the future, school districts and unions will compete for funding that comes from a national settlement with tobacco companies. The awards will be influenced by the smoking rates in each area.
Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe said that “[b]y targeting the regions with the greatest need and providing each with sufficient resources to really make a difference, we hope to have a greater impact on this problem.”