Teens Receive Daily Media Messages to Smoke but Can Be Influenced Otherwise

Advertising/promotion influences on adolescent perceptions of smoking

From 1994 to 1997, researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, Calif., examined the proliferation of smoking advertisements and promotion to help understand how tobacco promotions and advertisements influenced adolescents' perceptions of smoking and smoking behavior.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national program Tobacco Policy Research and Evaluation Program.

This project consisted of two studies of students in two San Jose, Calif., school districts. The first examined the nature and extent of smoking-related cues to which adolescents are exposed in the community via advertising and promotional materials. The second study assessed how mass media content symbolically reinforces and amplifies social pressures promoting adolescent tobacco use.

Key Findings:

  • Youth reported that they were daily and widely exposed to cigarette marketing.
  • Familial smoking, peer smoking, and exposure to cigarette marketing predicted participants' self-reported smoking behavior.
  • Boys, African Americans, Latinos, and those who had experimented with smoking were more likely to report high levels of exposure to tobacco marketing.
  • Youth who had received mail from a tobacco company were 2.8 times more likely and those who owned promotional items were 2.2 times more likely to have experimented with tobacco.
  • Removing tobacco marketing from young people's information environments may reduce their susceptibility to smoke overall, but counter advertising specifically may stimulate smoking, especially among older adolescents.