November 14, 2005
Most teens do not smoke.
Unfortunately, far too many are starting the habit unaware of how
difficult it will be when they decide to quit.
"Recently, ... tobacco
control experts have reconsidered their focus on prevention, in
part because adolescent smoking has increased since 1991, after
having plateaued in the 1970s and declined slightly during the 1980s.
That suggests that even the best prevention efforts, as they are
currently deployed, aren't enough to stem the tide of teen-age smoking,
many researchers believe. ... In 1999, 35 percent of high school
seniors had smoked a cigarette in the past month, and 23 percent
were daily smokers. About 40 percent of adolescent smokers report
having unsuccessfully tried to quit in the past."
Most teens do not smoke,
and many of those who do have tried to quit. Even more try to quit
"Almost no smoker
begins as an adult. Statistics show that about nine out of
10 tobacco users start before they're 18 years old. ... Most adults
who started smoking in their teens never expected to become addicted.
That's why people say it's just so much easier to not start smoking
"[I]t's just so much
easier to not start smoking at all."
why would someone start in the first place?
"Two recent evaluations
of state-based antismoking [advertising] campaigns used longitudinal
surveys of adolescents to ascertain whether there was a link between
self-reported ad exposure and reductions in smoking initiation (Sly
et al., 2001) or progression to regular use (Siegel and Biener,
2000). ... It was concluded that these states antismoking
television ads were effective in dissuading adolescents from taking
up smoking (also see MMWR, 1999). Unfortunately, the contribution
of this research is somewhat limited by the correlational nature
of the data. The data clearly show that adolescents who reported
seeing the antismoking ads later manifested a lower propensity to
smoke, but these data could be interpreted in one of two ways. One
possibility is that the antismoking ads reduced adolescent smoking.
A rival explanation is that adolescents who had strong antismoking
beliefs at the onset were more likely to pay attention to the antismoking
ads and also were less likely to smoke in the future (Pechmann and
Maybe teens and preteens
who notice the anti-smoking ads are less likely to smoke. Maybe
those who agree with the messages in these ads are more likely to
Due to regulations on the
tobacco industry, ads for cigarettes are not as frequent as they
once were, while ads against are easier to find. Whether the ads
are for or against, teens (and preteens) can often tell what message
the advertisers are trying to sell, and then choose to buy or reject
"Cigarette ads still
show smokers as attractive and hip, sophisticated and elegant, or
rebellious and cool. The good news is that these ads aren't as visible
and are less effective today than they used to be: Just as doctors
are more savvy about smoking today than they were a generation ago,
teens are more aware of how manipulative advertising can be. The
government has also passed laws limiting where and how tobacco companies
are allowed to advertise to help prevent young kids from getting
hooked on smoking."
Ads work, but only to a
certain extent. Teens (even children) do not always watch ads --
and don't always pay attention when they do. If ads can only do
so much, then what does work?
"Nearly 40 percent
of U.S. adolescents who give cigarette smoking a try do so because
they saw it in movies, a study said on Monday. In the study, described
as the first national look at the influence of movie smoking on
youths, the authors urged Hollywood to cut back on depictions of
smoking or shots of cigarette brands. ... Researchers at Dartmouth
Medical School asked 6,522 children aged 10 to 14 to identify films
they had seen from a list of 50 randomly selected box office hits
released in the United States from 1998 to 2000. Even after considering
other factors known to influence smoking, the study found that adolescents
with the highest exposure to movie smoking were 2.6 times more likely
to try it compared to those with the lowest exposure. ... 'Because
movie exposure to smoking is so pervasive, its impact on this age
group outweighs whether peers or parents smoke or whether the child
is involved in other activities, like sports.'"
University of California Health Library
Ads and product placement
are both ways that cigarette companies and anti-smoking campaigns
try to reach their target audience. As members of society who see
ads for cigarettes (and other products) -- and are exposed to these
products in movies and in life -- what do people need to know to
keep from becoming a marketing target?
Are many teens able to:
- "identify the marketing presence of tobacco and alcohol in
- define and identify examples of 'product
- identify how marketing, advertising,
promotion, and event sponsorships 'normalize' and 'glamorize'
tobacco and alcohol use through building attractive 'brand images,'
- understand the different and combined
influences of advertising, promotions, and event sponsorships.
- identify their exposure to tobacco
and alcohol messages in entertainment media,
- identify the positive and negative
role models for tobacco and alcohol use which occur in entertainment
Questions of the Week:
What information and skills would help children better process the
obvious (and subtle) marketing campaigns of the tobacco industry?
How does this differ from the information that preteens and teens
need? What information does everyone (regardless of age) need? What
skills for processing media input are needed by consumers of all
How would you reach your
peers with an anti-smoking campaign? How would you reach those in
different age groups? Of those you know who smoke, why did they
start? When did they start? What might have helped them avoid developing
the habit? If you were a teacher or parent, what would you do to
reach your students and/ or children and try to help them avoid
the cigarette addiction?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum