Teens exposed to cigarette ads more likely to smoke: study

09:55, July 20, 2010      

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Teens' exposure to cigarette advertising at retail outlets substantially increases the odds they will start smoking, finds a new study.

Students who visited these stores on a regular basis were at least twice as likely to try smoking as those who visited infrequently, according to the study conducted by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine.

The study was based on repeat surveys of 11- to 14-year-olds at three middle schools in Tracy, California, and assessments of cigarette advertisements at stores near the schools. The survey included questions about students' smoking experience as well as how often they visited the types of stores with lots of cigarette ads -- convenience stores, gas stations and small groceries -- and then checked back later, first at one year and then at 30 months.

Of the 2,110 students surveyed in 2003 when the study began, 1, 681 reported never smoking. A survey of these non-smoking students a year later revealed 18 percent of these students had smoked over the year, at least one puff, and that smoking initiation was much more prevalent among the students who had reported frequent visits to stores with the most cigarette ads.

Among those who had reported visiting these types of stores at least twice a week, 29 percent had taken at least one puff in the previous year. Among those who rarely visited -- less than twice a month -- only 9 percent had smoked at all.

A survey 30 months after the study began found that by then 27 percent had tried smoking: 34 percent of those who visited stores at least twice a week, and only 21 percent of those who rarely visited.

To measure exposure to ads, the researchers multiplied the frequency of visits by the number of advertising "impressions" in stores near the schools -- cigarette-branded ads, product displays and functional objects, like clocks, trash cans and register mats.

On average, students experienced 325 cigarette-brand impressions per week, ranging from an average of 114 among infrequent shoppers to 633 among those who shopped frequently.

"I was surprised by the sheer number of cigarette brand impressions in signs and displays in convenience stores near schools," said Lisa Henriksen, PhD, senior research scientist at the Stanford Prevention Research Center. "The exposure is unavoidable. It's impossible to miss."

Federal regulators should consider barring such marketing efforts from convenience stores, gas stations and small groceries, the researchers said in the study published in the latest issue of Pediatrics.

Source: Xinhua


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