In The Mouths Of Teens, Licit-Drug Abuse, Etc.

The latest news of teenage depravity comes to us in a Gallup Poll Tuesday Briefing. Just 13 percent of teenagers floss their teeth every day, according to Gallup’s polling, and 44 percent seldom or never floss. Teens are better about brushing: 64 percent said they do so at least twice a day, with another 34 percent saying they brush once a day.

They’re not young and footloose, they’re old and footloose. In a nationwide reader poll by Senior Publishers Media Group, which publishes community newspapers for the 50-and-up crowd, 6 percent of respondents said they plan to take 16 or more out-of-town trips in the next year. Fifteen percent expect to take such trips at least once a month; another 21 percent plan six to 10 out-of-town jaunts during the next year. If they go to visit their grandchildren, they’ll probably bring a gift. Respondents said their favorite kind of purchase is a present for a grandchild.

What, me worry? The political season has combined with the recent 9/11 anniversary to freshen public awareness of terrorism. Nonetheless, this has not put the terrorist threat atop the hierarchy of Americans’ fears. In an Associated Press/Ipsos-Public Affairs survey conducted at the end of August, just 7 percent of respondents said they worry “a great deal” that “you or your family might be the victim of a terrorist attack.” As the chart below shows, people are more likely to say they “never” worry about terrorism than to say they worry about it “frequently.” By comparison, 14 percent worry frequently about being hurt in a car accident, with 41 percent doing so occasionally, 30 percent rarely and 15 percent never. Given current morbidity data, it’s striking that 19 percent of respondents said they never worry about getting cancer, with another 34 percent saying they rarely do so; 15 percent frequently worry about getting cancer, and 32 percent occasionally worry about it. Few respondents (8 percent) said they frequently worry about “becoming a victim of a disaster like a hurricane, tornado or earthquake”; 32 percent never worry about that possibility. This year’s spectacular hurricane season might change their minds.

While it’s not the recount he’d hoped for, Al Gore has been getting a retrospective chance to beat George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election. It hasn’t been panning out well for him, though. In its series of polls about the 2004 election, Time has been asking registered voters to say how they voted four years ago. Despite the fact that Gore won a narrow plurality of the popular vote in the real election, he’s been losing consistently to Bush in the who’d-you-vote-for recollections. In the most recent poll available at press time (fielded Sept. 7-9), 53 percent of respondents said they voted for Bush in 2000, vs. 41 percent for Gore. (One percent said they voted for Ralph Nader and 1 percent for some other candidate, with the rest saying they don’t recall or declining to answer.) Gore’s best showing, in a poll fielded Aug. 3-5, had him losing to Bush by 44 percent to 50 percent. The loser in this fall’s election can only hope to fare better when pollsters quiz Americans in 2008 about how they voted back in 2004.

Elsewhere on the oddball-political-factoid front, Budget Travel commissioned a poll that asked people to say who among John Kerry, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and John Edwards they’d prefer to be stuck with on a desert island. Bush was the top vote-getter (40 percent), with Kerry (19 percent) coming in slightly behind his running mate (21 percent for Edwards). Despite Cheney’s vast experience at languishing in undisclosed locations, he had few takers (5 percent). The poll’s results look positive for Bush, but note that his total may be inflated by the votes of people who mainly wish he were on a desert island—even if they had to be there with him.

Will the love that dare not speak its name—I’m speaking of consumers’ love of carbohydrates, of course—find expression in a food whose name is as yet almost unknown? A report by Packaged Facts notes that a mere 16 percent of U.S. consumers have heard of quinoa, the Andean grain. Among those who have tried it, though, 90 percent said they’d eat it again. The report says quinoa could appeal to diet-conscious consumers because it’s “higher in unsaturated fats and lower in carbs than most grains.” The fact that it’s begun turning up on the menus of upscale restaurants is seen as a telltale sign that it could become a part of the mainstream diet.

Honors for Best Use of a Slimmed-Down Gingerbread Man go this week to Oregon Chai’s Sugar Free Original Chai Tea Latte. He won’t have to buy his clothes at the big-and-tall-pastry shop anymore! And if the little fellow starts to get jittery, he can switch over to the caffeine-free version for a while. TBD Advertising of Bend, Ore., created the ad.

Sounds like a case of “conservation of vice.” One of our cherished pet theories here at “Takes” is that when the population misbehaves less in one way, it compensates by misbehaving more in some other way. Think of it as the misbehavioral equivalent of physics’ law of “conservation of mass.” Anyhow, we find fresh support for this theory in a report by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Analyzing data collected in 2003, the report noted a 5 percent decline in the number of kids age 12-17 who’d used marijuana at any point in their lifetimes. That included a 30 percent drop in past-year use by kids in the 12-13 subgroup. Incidence of past-year use of Ecstasy among the 12-17s was down 41 percent, and there was a 54 percent drop in LSD use. Offsetting this decline in the use of illicit drugs, though, was a rise in abuse of prescription drugs. Among Americans age 12-plus, the number who’d made “non-medical” use of prescription pain relievers in their lifetimes climbed 5 percent. And in the 18-25 age bracket, there was a 15 percent jump in both lifetime and current abuse of such drugs.

You don’t regard fantasy football as a menace to economic growth? A communiqué from Challenger, Gray & Christmas aims to set you straight. It calculates that the workday time America’s 14 million fantasy footballers spend on managing (or chatting about) their teams will cost employers $36 million per day in lost productivity during the NFL season. Of course, this assumes that those employees would otherwise have been doing something useful—a questionable premise at best.