* WINNER: Utah. Up from ninth place last year, Utah now ranks second only to Vermont as the best overall state for child welfare. That's the word this week from the Center for the Study of Social Policy, which has been measuring the well-being of children across the nation.

LOSER: The rest of the country. The same study shows that nation-wide children lost important ground the past decade.* WINNERS: Iraqi prisoners of war in the Persian Gulf. Scripps Howard News Service reports they are so surprised by good conditions in allied POW camps that some have asked for permanent jobs. Has anyone considered the possibility of ending the war by hiring Iraq away from Saddam Hussein?

* WINNERS: American wage-earners. They earned 6 per cent more in 1990 than they did in 1989, according to the Commerce Department.

LOSERS: American wage-earners. The same study shows that they spent every bit of that extra income. Wasn't anyone paying attention to the moral of Aesop's story about the grasshopper and the ant?

* WINNERS: Smokers. More and more of them are kicking the habit. This week the government reported that only about 29 per cent of all Americans now smoke, down from 30 per cent in 1985 and 40 per cent in 1964, the year of the first report from the surgeon general on the health hazards of smoking.

LOSERS: Smokers. Though the habit seems to be dying out, so are increasing numbers of old smokers. Since 1985, deaths from smoking-related illnesses have increased 11 per cent to more than 430,000 a year in the United States. Sadly, some Americans are now paying for what they did 20 or 30 years ago. But the death toll can be expected to start decreasing if Americans keep abandoning tobacco.