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September 16, 1988

Even 'Knowing Better' About Smoking, Other Health Risks, May Not Deter Adolescents

JAMA. 1988;260(11):1512-1513. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03410110014004

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WHEN IT COMES TO their health, even when they know better, teenagers don't always put their knowledge into practice. This lesson could be drawn from results of the first national survey in a quarter of a century of behavior, knowledge, and attitudes related to health among the nation's teenagers.

The survey, which questioned 11419 eighth- and tenth-grade students attending 217 schools, indicates they are careless about avoiding injury, frequently consider suicide, are fundamentally ignorant about sexually transmitted diseases, drink too much, and use drugs and tobacco despite warnings. Those questioned are a representative national sample, says W. James Popham, PhD, president of IOX Assess-ment Associates of Los Angeles, which conducted the survey.

Releasing the survey's findings, Robert E. Windom, MD, assistant secretary for health, described them as "somewhat dismaying." However, he says, "they give us fresh insight concerning what our nation's teenagers know and how they act concerning health and