So, there's the picture ... Michael Phelps ... winner of a record 8 gold medals at the summer Olymipics ... doing a bong. He's inhaling from a marijuana pipe. Phelps doesn't deny what he did ... just apologized.

Immediately, there a lot of noise about how this could cost Phelps millions of dollars in commercial endorsements, but so far, it appears ... swimmaker Speedo and Swiss watchmaker Omega are willing to say: That's okay. Other big companies such as Visa, Subway and Kellogg aren't commenting right now. I would imagine they are waiting to see which way the "public relations wind" blows. ( I do want to point out that Rosetta Stone the foreign language vendor immediatley said: We do not condone his activities and are disappointed in his recent judgment. Rosetta Stone had a one year deal that ended with Phelps last December 31st. )

Okay, he's 23 years old ... now has millions ... is a national hero ... so many are saying: No big deal.

Remember we had President Clinton admit smoking, but claiming that he didn't inhale; President Obama admits smoking and inhaling ... saying .. that was the point.

So, put that perspective around Phelps ... in today's world ... does it make a difference?

The Phelps story breaks as researchers found kids on both sides of the Atlantic are smoking less pot. That's based on a study of more than 93,000 fifteen year olds in 30 countries. 2006 year survey results were compared to surveys in 2002.

The report in February's Archieves of Pediatrics and Adolescent Magazine found that the U.S. ranked 3rd of all countries .. with 24% of boys and girls reporting marijuana use; that was down almost 12% among boys and 2% among girls.

So, with a big sports hero ... gold medal winner ... using marijuana ... should we expect more kids to start smoking?

The "hero worship" factor suggests kids will imitate their heroes ... that can be a good thing ... or a bad thing.

Lisa Bain, executive editor of Parenting magazine, says: "We should grab this teachable moment. It's a good opportunity to talk to your kids about role models. They're human. They're not gods. Any conversation you can have with your kids about the choices people make, especially those they hold up as role models, is a good thing."

On the other hand, syndicated columnist Randy Cohen dismisses whether Phelps should be a rolde model. The Associated Press quotes Cohen as saying: "The people who should be shaping our kids' conduct are parents, friends, people they know in the community. Michael Phelps' glory is that he's an incrediblty talent swimmer. Unless your child happens to be a fish, why do you want him to be a role model?"

That's kind of funny, but despite parental guidelines ... and being surrounded by law abiding, moral friends ... kids will idolize some sports/entertainment figures.

By the way, this is the 2nd time Phelps has "fallen from grace". In 2004, shortly after the Athens Games ... the then-underage Phelps was arrested for drunk driving; he pleaded guilty, apologized and promised: it will not happen again.

This time, he admits that his behavior is "regrettable" and shows "bad judgment".

So what do you think ... about Phelps smoking marijuana ... about his impact on kids? What do you think about sponsors who decide to give him a pass?

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