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Study: teen smokers more apt to alcohol, drug abuse
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Compared to 12-to-17-year-olds who don't smoke, teenagers who do are over five times more likely to drink and 13 times more likely to use marijuana, media reported quoting a US study Wednesday.

Smokers aged 12 to 17 are more likely to drink alcohol than nonsmokers -- 59 percent compared to 11 percent, the study found.

Compared to those who never smoked, those who began smoking at age 12 or younger are more than three times more likely to binge on alcohol -- 31 percent compared to 9 percent, and nearly seven times more likely to use other illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

"These findings sound an alarm for parents, teachers, pediatricians and others responsible for children's health that smoking by teens may well signal the fire of alcohol and other drug abuse and mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety disorders," said Joseph Califano, one of the researchers and head of Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.

"We have known for a long time that smoking causes deadly and crippling cancers and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Now we see the devastating effects that nicotine can have on the developing brains of our children and teens."

The study analyzed surveys conducted by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and other data on youth smokers. 

Teenagers who smoke also have a higher risk of depression and anxiety disorders. Teens who reported early initiation of smoking were more likely to experience serious feelings of hopelessness, depression and worthlessness in the past year.

The study also notes that smoking at a young age is related to panic attacks, general anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The public health case against tobacco for hiking the chances of damaging our children's developing brains in ways that can increase their risk of alcohol and other drug abuse and mental illness is clear," noted Califano, who started the national anti-smoking campaign in 1978.

"The time has come to curb cigarette advertisements and promotions by the nicotine pushers and step up campaigns to protect our nation's children."

(Agencies via Xinhua News Agency October 24, 2007)

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