News Briefs for April 2002

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Pollution Kills Children

Environmental hazards account for the annual death of approximately 3 million children under age 5 worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). At a meeting of over 300 international participants in Bangkok in early March, WHO reported that 1.3 million children in 2000 died from diseases caused by unsafe water supply, hygiene or sanitation. Additionally, acute respiratory infections – generally due to the burning of biomass fuel in confined areas – caused 2.2 million deaths among small children.

Contact: Environment News Service,

Benefits for Drug Felons?

An article in the Feb. 28 Los Angeles Times contemplates whether convicted drug felons should be eligible for federal welfare programs for their children. An amendment to the current welfare law bans convicted drug users from receiving welfare benefits, putting roughly 135,000 children at risk, according to a study cited in the article. The law has left some 92,000 American women without the cash, food stamps, job training and other services that eligible families receive.

Opponents of the amendment, which Congress will review along with welfare law this spring, feel it unnecessarily punishes children and makes rehabilitation from a drug sentence nearly impossible. Those on either side of the debate feel a toppling of the measure would be a difficult political maneuver.

Contact: Los Angeles Times,, search for “welfare ban drugs.”

White Teens More Likely to Smoke

A new report by the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco finds that although delinquency and rebellious behavior have been a predictor for smoking by adolescents of all races, white youths were more likely to smoke than those of other races. White teens were also three times more likely to continue smoking than minority teens, despite the fact that mothers of Hispanic and black adolescents were much more likely to be smokers. Good child-parent relationships among all races led to a much smaller likelihood that the child would begin smoking.

Results are based on interviews with 1,500 children and their mothers conducted in 1992 and 1994, and were published in the February issue of Nicotine & Tobacco Research. $99 (for entire issue). (800) 354-1420. To order article online, go to:

CASA’s Hangover: Stats on Youth Drinking Are Wrong

Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) released a report in late February claiming that underage drinkers consumed 25 percent of all the alcohol in the United States. The figure seemed pretty outrageous to some, and for good reason –- it’s wrong.

The report, “Teen Tipplers,” used statistics from the Annual Household Survey on Drug Abuse conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). CASA’s 25 percent figure was reported by news outlets including CNN, the Associated Press, NBC and The New York Times website, several of which later ran claims by government sources that the figure was way too high. SAMHSA told The New York Times that underage drinkers account for only 11.4 percent of the nation’s alcohol consumption.

CASA admitted that it had misapplied the household survey data. Young people made up 40 percent of that survey, but make up only about 20 percent of the U.S. population – a difference CASA did not account for in its claims. The CASA report contains dozens of other stats about youth alcohol consumption.

Contact: The CASA report is available at The New York Times story about the error is at, search for “youth alcohol.”

Boot Camp Worker Guilty in Boy’s Death

Troy Hutty, a corporal for a Phoenix, Ariz., boot camp, pled guilty Feb. 20 to the negligent homicide of 14-year-old Anthony Haynes. Haynes died last July after camp staff at the Buffalo Soldiers Re-enactment Association forced him to stand for hours in sweltering desert heat. He later almost drowned in a motel bathtub.

According to prosecutors, Hutty did not call for medical help even though he was aware of Haynes’ physical distress. Hutty, who faces probation and the possibility of a year in jail, pled to a lower charge after agreeing to cooperate in the investigation of higher camp officials, particularly camp Director Charles Long II. Hutty will remain free without bail, and will not be sentenced until any cases with other camp officers are prosecuted.


More Kids Die Where Guns are Close By

The Harvard School of Public Health reports that a disproportionately high number of children fall victim to suicide, homicide and accidental shooting deaths in areas where the purchase and possession of guns are especially prevalent. Over a 10-year span beginning in 1988, 6,817 American children ages 5 to 14 died by firearms. A comparison of the five states with the highest gun availability and the five with the lowest shows that the number of non-gun murders is similar, but states with high gun availability have 250 percent more shooting murders among children.

Compared with other higher- and upper-income nations, the homicide rate among U.S. children is 17 times higher and the suicide rate is nine times higher.

Contact: Journal of Trauma, Feb. 2002.

More Violent Teen Deaths

Adolescent death rates due to suicide, homicide and motor-vehicle accidents have risen since the mid-1950s, according to World Health Organization data on 26 developed countries. Such deaths rose 17 percent from 1955 to 1994, even while overall death rates among 15- to 34-year-olds dropped by nearly half. The U.S. had the second-highest suicide rate and third-highest rate of death from motor-vehicle accidents.

Contact: Journal of Adolescent Health, Jan. 2002 (subscription required):

Taxes Reduce Youth Smoking

A new study by the Center for the Advancement of Health says cigarette taxes can deter teens from smoking. Teens living in areas with tax-padded cigarette prices above $2.32 were 13 percent less likely to smoke than those in areas where packs sold for below $2.07. Teenagers in the higher tax areas were also about 30 percent less likely to smoke more than a pack a day. The statistics are the result of a nationwide study that surveyed between 15,000 and 19,000 eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade students per year for three years.

Also in February, the World Health Organization released a study calling for higher tobacco taxes around the world to reduce smoking.

Contact: Nicotine & Tobacco Research, Feb. 2002 (subscription required):

Maybe They Know Too Much

People who were born in the 1960s and grew up in an era of challenging parental authority have turned out to be pretty strict parents. That’s the conclusion of a study of California parents, summarized in the Feb. 21 Christian Science Monitor. The study found that many of those parents have abandoned their youthful beliefs about learning through experiment and experience. One reason: a lot of the baby boomers consider the contemporary world of AIDS, violent gangs and school violence more dangerous than the 1960s. The study, which covered California families of a variety of racial and economic backgrounds, suggests a 20 percent shift in attitude among parents.

Contact:, search for “snooping parents."

Sick Puppy?

A high school teacher in Leon, Kan. planned to feed three unwanted puppies to a boa constrictor for a science class, but has since decided otherwise. The teacher, Matthew Patton, agreed to a request by the principal that he retract his plans after a student’s parent submitted a complaint and a number of students broke into tears. An animal shelter that puts unwanted animals to sleep donated the puppies.

The Associated Press story is at