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Drinking, Smoking Decline Among Wyoming Students; Marijuana Use Stays Flat

March 10, 2015

Wyoming continues to see overall significant declines in junior high and high school students saying they use alcohol and cigarettes, according to new survey results.

Administered for the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) by the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center (WYSAC) at the University of Wyoming, the 2014 Prevention Needs Assessment (PNA) student survey provides detailed state, county, school district, and school-level data on self-reported substance use and participation in problem behaviors among Wyoming youth. Twenty counties participated in the survey.

Results show both youth alcohol and cigarette use continues to decline over time, for students reporting use “sometime in their lifetime” and “use sometime in the past 30 days.”

In some cases, marijuana use is now reported more frequently than cigarette use.

“These changes in prevalence rankings appear to be primarily because cigarette use has declined, while marijuana use trends have remained flat,” says Eric Canen, the study’s principal investigator and senior research scientist with WYSAC.

Canen notes Wyoming students have reported no notable increases or decreases in marijuana use. 

“Couple the flat trend on marijuana use with decreased cigarette use, and the result we see is that nearly the same percentage of students are using both substances,” Canen says. Marijuana has recently been legalized in states surrounding Wyoming.

Keith Hotle, WDH Chronic Disease and Substance Abuse Prevention Unit manager, says he was not surprised to see alcohol remains the most commonly reported used substance in all grade levels across the state.

Current (past 30 days) alcohol use in the eighth grade has decreased from 18 percent in 2012 to 15 percent in 2014, and for 12th grade from 41 percent in 2012 to 39 percent in 2014. Self-reported binge drinking also declined from 2008-12 averages of 29 percent to 23 percent in 2014 for 12th grade.

“Over the last several years, together with many community partners, our department has included alcohol misuse and abuse issues such as underage drinking among our prevention priorities,” Hotle says. “It’s been a consistent concern, so we are pleased to see positive results.”

“Smoking data is similarly encouraging,” Hotle says. From 2008-12, cigarette use sometime during the lifetime declined from 2008-12 averages of 26 percent to 21 percent in 2014 for eighth grade and from 9 percent to 7 percent for 10th grade. 

Hotle notes the 2014 survey results show Wyoming youth in middle school reported an average rate of current prescription drug misuse (past 30 days) at 1 percent, while high school youths reported an average misuse rate of 3 percent. “This is an issue of concern in many communities,” he says.

WDH uses data from the PNA to monitor changes in important youth substance use trends. Community agencies also use the data to set priorities for their efforts and, sometimes, to seek additional funding.

“This year, we had increased participation from the school districts and schools with nearly 90 percent of districts in Wyoming choosing to participate, which we appreciate,” Canen says. “We recognize that continuing to provide this important information requires the cooperation and participation of schools throughout Wyoming.”

To review PNA reports and fact sheets, visit

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