Preteens Send Some Alarming Smoke Signals

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Burmese revolutionaries Johnny and Luther Htoo aren't the only 12-year-olds given to toking on tobacco. On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control published the results of its first-ever study of smoking among middle schoolers, which found an alarmingly high smoking rate among 11-to-13-year-olds. And there may be trends other than Joe Camel-type chic luring these tots to tobacco. The stat that's really raising flags has roughly one in every 20 students surveyed smoking one of two types of potentially more dangerous flavored cigarettes.

"The news about young children isn't that surprising," says TIME health writer Alice Park. "Anecdotally we've been hearing for years that kids have been starting younger." What is surprising, though, are the findings of increased use of chocolate-laced bidis from India and clove-infused Indonesian krayteks. The candylike flavors of these cigarettes tend to lure smokers into inhaling more deeply, thus doing extra damage to their lungs. So while recent research shows that smoking among teens has been on the decline in the last few years, the teens of the next few years may be doing themselves more harm than smokers from the past.