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Children who watch an excessive amount of television are at greater risk than those who do not of becoming obese, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics last week.

Researchers from Memphis State University and the University of Tennessee's Memphis campus studied 15 obese and 16 normal-weight girls between the ages of 8 and 12. They concluded that television viewing significantly lowers the metabolic rate of both obese and normal-weight children.

The girls burned fewer calories watching the television show "The Wonder Years'' than they did doing nothing, the researchers found.

Some 25 percent of children in the United States may be obese, according to government reports.

"Obesity in the United States has assumed near-epidemic proportions, particularly among school-age children,'' said the authors, who say that exercise and proper diet are "necessary for the long-term control of childhood obesity.''

More than 750,000 children in child-care facilities in the United States are at risk from environmental exposure to tobacco smoke, according to a study published in the same issue of Pediatrics.

Researchers at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed local smoking regulations and compliance in 2,003 licensed day-care centers. They found that nearly 55 percent of the centers banned smoking indoors and outdoors, and 26 percent banned it only indoors.

Nevertheless, some 18 percent of children attend centers that limit smoking to certain times or places. Such a policy exposes children to environmental smoke, which has been linked to a number of health problems in children, the study says.

"Unless these rooms have a separate air-circulation system venting directly to the outdoors ... [smoke] will be circulated to all rooms in the buildings,'' the authors say.

Nearly four million American children under age 5 attend accredited child-care centers.

Advertisements for Camel cigarettes that feature the cartoon character Joe Camel are the favorites of 243 7th and 8th graders from Chicago who reported their reactions to 13 recent print advertisements in another C.D.C. study released last week.

The researchers found that advertisements featuring the cartoon spokesman were preferred by nearly 75 percent of the students, beating out ads with human models.

"This study should be the straw that breaks Joe Camel's back,'' said Ron Davis, a former director of the C.D.C.'s office of smoking and health, who denounced what he called the tobacco industry's practice of targeting children.--J.P.

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