Global youth smoking study finds high rates in poor regions
ATLANTA (AP) Health officials are taking a snapshot of child smoking rates around the world, and they say the preliminary findings are alarming.
In Buenos Aires, Argentina, one in four children ages 13 to 15 smokes cigarettes. In Moscow, it's one in three, and in the Northern Mariana Islands, nearly 40 percent of children in that age bracket smoke.
The figures, released Thursday by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, are part of an ongoing survey of global youth smoking rates that the CDC hopes to complete by the end of the year.
''This is the first time we've had numbers to show (youth) smoking really is a major world health problem,'' said Dr. Terry Pechacek of the CDC.
Organizers of the Global Youth Tobacco Survey acknowledge they still have a long way to go before they can present a scientific comparison of youth smoking rates.
So far, results for some countries focus only on major cities while others are nationwide. Some numbers come from this year while others like the 18.8 percent rate for the United States are two years old. Figures for western Europe and Japan, which have traditionally high smoking rates, won't be ready until later this year.
But organizers say the initial findings already point to the growing problem of youth smoking worldwide.
''In many parts of the world, youths can easily get cigarettes,'' Pechacek said.
The figures were taken for ages 13-15 because that is the most reliable bracket for school attendance.
The CDC is conducting the study with the World Health Organization, the National Cancer Institute and the Canadian Public Health Association.