Youth smoking sparks concern

LOCAL kids can’t fight the urge to spark up, according to the latest health data which revealed alarming rates of Murrumbidgee students smoke cigarettes and cannabis.

The statistics revealed Murrumbidgee and Southern NSW students represent the state’s second highest rate of smoking tobacco, with nearly one in 10 schoolkids lighting up a smoke in the past seven days.

Of equal concern was the 16 per cent of local students who have used cannabis, eclipsing the state average of 13.6 per cent.

It’s not just local kids who can’t stop smoking – the Murrumbidgee Local Health

District (MLHD) has the second highest rate of non-Aboriginal adults in NSW who smoke. 

Griffith’s Community Drug Action Team (CDAT) member, Peta Dummett, is drafting a new survey to find out which drug is having the most devastating impact on the Griffith community.

“The health statistics are quite concerning and we have major worries about the health of our youth,” Ms Dummett said.

“The smoking rates amongst students are of particular concern and we need to reduce the rate through education. But there are other drugs that worry us and so we’re working with Riverina TAFE drug and alcohol counselling class to design a community survey for Griffith and surrounding communities that determine the community’s perception about which substances are having the worst effect.”

Ms Dummett made particular reference to local rates of alcohol abuse, which also trump the state averages.

The MLHD recorded an average of 16 alcohol-attributable deaths, 384 injuries and 704 hospitalisations per 100,000 population, all higher than the NSW average.

Last year Griffith saw 65 alcohol-related non-domestic assaults and 69 alcohol-related domestic violence incidents.

Murrumbidgee district drug and alcohol service clinical nurse consultant, Martina Greenaway, said in many cases children between 12 and 17 years old who smoked cannabis were the victims of abuse, while heavy alcohol consumption could often be put down to social and economic disadvantage.

“The region faces significant social and economic disadvantage and unemployed people, due to psychological distress, are likely to consume more alcohol,” Ms Greenaway said.

“The high number of alcohol related hospitalisations is due to health inequality, which leads to chronic disease, disability and hospital visits.

“As to students smoking cannabis, a lot of people with a history of trauma develop depression and use cannabis to dull down those feelings.”

CDAT has also been made aware there were 356 drug related offences, including possession, dealing and manufacture of different substances, in the Griffith local government area last year.