Cigarette Advertising in Stores Can Light Up Teen Smoking, Study Shows

Filed under: In The News, Alcohol & Drugs, Research Reveals: Teens

Do ads make kids light up? Credit: Getty Images

We know teens can be impressionable. In fact, a new
study shows that axiom is so true that simply seeing advertisements for smoking increases the odds a teenager will pick up the habit.

Children who are regularly exposed to ads for cigarettes at places where they are sold are twice as likely to start smoking as those who visit such stores infrequently, an article set to be published in the upcoming issue of the journal Pediatrics says.

Researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine's Prevention Research Center identified nearly 1,700 11- to 14-year-olds at three middle schools in Tracy, Calif., who said they had never smoked. In addition to answering questions about their smoking experiences, the students responded to queries about how often they visited convenience stores, gas stations and small grocery stores, where cigarette ads are prevalent. The children were surveyed again one year later and again at 30 months.

The researchers also assessed cigarette advertising near the schools. They measured exposure by determining the number of advertising "impressions" in a store, which included branded cigarette ads, product displays and branded objects such as clocks, trash cans and register mats. The researchers measured exposure by multiplying a student's visits to the stores by the number of impressions in them. On average, students experienced 325 cigarette brand impressions each week.

At the one-year mark, 18 percent of the students had taken at least one puff of a cigarette, and the rate of students who had tried cigarettes was higher among those who made more frequent visits to the stores with cigarette advertising. Of the kids who had visited such stores at least twice a week, 29 percent had tried a cigarette in the previous year; that dropped to 9 percent for those who had been to the stores less than twice a month.

At 30 months, 27 percent of the children overall had tried smoking -- 34 percent of those who visited the stores twice a week or more, and 21 percent of those who visited two times a month or less.

The study accounted for other factors that can influence smoking such as risk-taking behavior, unsupervised time after school, exposure to smoking in movies or on television and smoking by family and friends. It also factored in grades and demographics. Even after allowing for all those elements, the relationship between stores visits and smoking initiation was strong.

Related: Parents Play Key Role In Preventing Smoking, Study Says

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.