January 18, 2011 - Tobacco advertisements really do prompt teenagers to smoke, say the authors of a new study that calls for a ban on cigarette ads.
PAPER: Cigarette Advertising and Teen Smoking Initiation, Reiner Hanewinkel, PhD, Barbara Isensee, PhD, James D. Sargent, MD, Matthis Morgenstern, PhD, Pediatrics, Published online January 17, 2011, ABSTRACT..
In research involving more than 2,100 public school students in Germany, 277 young people who had never smoked before took up the habit after viewing tobacco advertising. Those who saw the most ads were 46 percent more likely to try cigarettes than those who saw no tobacco ads, the study found.
Students involved in the study ranged from 10 to 17 years old, with an average age of 12.5 years, when the study began. They were shown 12 ads with branding removed -- six for cigarettes and six for other products, including candy, cars and cell phones. They were asked to identify the product advertised and recall the brand if they could.
After nine months, 13 percent of the students who had seen tobacco ads began smoking, showing a strong connection between the behavior and tobacco advertising, said Sargent. And the more ads they saw, the more likely they were to start smoking, the study found.
Cheryl Healton, president and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation, an anti-smoking organization: this [study] is very important because there are few, if any, longitudinal studies," demonstrating a link between tobacco advertising and teen smoking. Previous research has mostly relied on cross-sectional studies, she said. That type of study documents incidence of a behavior at a certain point in time and may suggest a link between, say, smoking and advertising, but it doesn't show cause-and-effect. A longitudinal study, on the other hand, follows participants for a period of time in an effort to demonstrate that one causes the other.
Advertising exploits themes that are meaningful to teens including sex appeal, masculinity for boys, thinness for girls, and social acceptance, according to research cited in the study. Most smoking starts during adolescence, and because tobacco is a powerful psychoactive drug, the path to addiction readily follows, the authors added.
Healton said tobacco companies spend about $30 million a day on advertising in the United States alone. They "have to get young people to smoke or else they will go out of business," she said. Although tobacco advertising is banned on American television, Healton said some TV programs promote smoking by showing characters lighting up.
References: Cigarette Ads Do Spur Teens to Light Up, Study Finds The more advertisements they saw, the more likely they were to smoke, researchers say by Ellin Holohan - HealthDay Reporter, Bloomberg Business Week, 1/17/2010.
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