High School Smoking

Is Down, Study Says

Smoking among U.S. high school students has fallen to about one in five -- the lowest level in at least a generation -- in a drop-off that the government attributes to anti-smoking campaigns and higher cigarette taxes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported yesterday that nearly 22 percent of high school students said they were smokers in 2003. That is down from more than 36 percent in 1997, and the lowest level since the CDC began keeping track in 1975.

The drop was so dramatic that for the first time in more than two decades, the percentage of high school smokers is lower than the percentage of adult smokers. That was seen as an especially encouraging sign by the government.

In fact, the CDC study found that anti-tobacco efforts have been successful across the board, from curbing the number of first-time smokers to reducing the ranks of the heaviest smokers.

"We are reaching all the youth. If we can stop youth from becoming addicted smokers, eventually we can stop this epidemic," said Terry F. Pechacek, associate director for science in the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. "We're making the progress we've been working toward for the last 40 years."

The CDC said that anti-tobacco efforts such as TV ads and school campaigns have been highly successful. Some of the programs were funded by the $206 billion settlement that tobacco companies and states reached in 1998.

Another big reason fewer teenagers are lighting up is the high cost of a pack of cigarettes, the CDC said.

Students were classified as current smokers if they had lit up in the preceding 30 days.

Malnutrition Causes

Most Child Deaths

Malnutrition is to blame for more than half of all the deaths of children around the world -- including deaths caused by diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria and measles, researchers said yesterday.

Poor nourishment leaves children underweight, weakened and vulnerable to infections that need not be fatal, researchers with the World Health Organization and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found.

They estimated that feeding all children an adequate diet would prevent about 1 million deaths a year from pneumonia, 800,000 from diarrhea, 500,000 from malaria and 250,000 from measles.

"Malnutrition does not have to be severe to have a significant impact on child health and survival," said Laura Caulfield, an associate professor with the Bloomberg School's Center for Human Nutrition who led the study.

Her group analyzed data from 10 studies of childhood deaths around the world and examined the effect of weight on the likelihood of death.

-- From News Services