• Kyodo

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Pregnant women here drink and smoke twice the national average, according to a survey conducted by the Sapporo Municipal Government.

Some 40.5 percent of the young women polled said they drank alcohol during pregnancy, and 18.7 percent admitted to smoking. The survey canvassed 8,000 mothers, of which 4,685 responded.

Nationwide, 18.1 percent of expectant mothers said they drank and 10 percent admitted to smoking, according to a survey conducted in September 2000 by the Health and Welfare Ministry, which has since become the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

“The figures are shocking,” an official involved in the Sapporo survey said.

Doctors say that consumption of alcohol during pregnancy impairs fetal growth and smoking increases chances of miscarriage and premature birth.

Meanwhile, a survey conducted in 2000 by the Sapporo public health center shows that the abortion rates among teenagers and women in their early 20s are about double the national average. Sapporo teenagers racked up a 2.4 percent abortion rate, rising to 4.16 percent for women in their 20s.

Young women in Sapporo “may lack sufficient recognition and responsibility regarding becoming mothers and harboring life,” said Mutsuko Tachi, who is in charge of health instruction in the city.

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