DR. WALLACE: I keep reading about all of the pregnant unwed teens in the United States. Is this basically a U.S. problem, or does it exist throughout the world? — Curious
CURIOUS: The nonprofit Center for Population Options conducted a study that disclosed that more than 500,000 babies are born to teen mothers in the United States each year. More than 50 percent of the pregnant teens are unmarried, and 93 percent of the teens who have babies choose to keep them rather than place them with adoptive parents. 70 percent of pregnant teens also failed to graduate from high school.
Statistics also revealed that 1 in 10 American teenage girls becomes pregnant each year, and when girls leave their teen years, 40 percent of them will be or will have been pregnant at some point.
In the United States, the teen pregnancy rate is twice that of Canada, England or France and seven times that of Holland. The United States is the only developed country where teenage pregnancy is increasing.
I ENJOY READING YOUR COLUMN, HOWEVER...
DR. WALLACE: You are constantly saying bad things about tobacco products and those who manufacture them. Are you aware that the levels of tar in cigarettes have declined a lot in the past decade? This shows that manufacturers are constantly doing what they can to make their products less dangerous.
For me, smoking is an enjoyable and relaxing experience, and I will never give it up. I have never smoked in my office or my house, and I respect others by never smoking near them. When I light up, it's in the great outdoors or when I'm alone in my yard.
I enjoyed reading your column, but I wish you would stop "nagging" about the evils of smoking. — Satisfied Smoker, Memphis, Tennessee
SMOKER: While cigarette tar and nicotine levels are, as you say, lower today than they were 10 years ago, smoking is still as dangerous and potentially deadly as it ever was. This is because American smokers — especially women — smoke more cigarettes each day, inhale more deeply and begin smoking at a much earlier age.
Indeed, smoking-related death rates are higher today than ever before. The number of people who die annually from the effects of tobacco smoke is staggering. For that reason, I would be remiss if I didn't throw some cold water on your "enjoyable" but foolish habit. And yes, I do encourage you to stop smoking.
MOST MARIJUANA USERS DON'T DO DANGEROUS DRUGS
DR. WALLACE: Do the majority of marijuana users move on to more potent and dangerous drugs? — Anonymous, Oakland, California
ANONYMOUS: A Penn State University research team studied the same question and found that 7 out of 10 marijuana users do not advance to other drugs, such as LSD, cocaine or heroin. But of those who are currently using hard drugs, 98 percent also use or have used marijuana.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.