Tobacco Advertising and Teens: Study Shows Ads Increase Youth Smoking

Both genders respond to tobacco advertising. Image by Kara Allyson.

Both genders respond to tobacco advertising. Image by Kara Allyson.

Kids today are so swamped by media, you might think they wouldn’t pay any attention to a billboard or in-store display promoting cigarettes.

Research based in Germany, however, which has similar laws regarding tobacco advertising as the USA,  demonstrates that not only do teens notice tobacco ads, but tobacco ads are effective at getting them to move from abstinence to lighting up.

Teens and Tobacco Ads Study: A Longitudinal Approach

Dr. Matthis Morgenstern and colleagues at the University of Kiel in Kiel, Germany studied a group of 1320 middle school students over a 30 month interval.

Using a longitudinal approach, which examines the same entities over time, the researchers were able to follow the exposure to cigarette advertising and map its effect on the teen smoking.

In September-October of 2008, students were asked how often they had seen a variety of advertisements, including ads for specific cars, mints, mobile phone providers and candy along with cigarettes.  Students reported whether or not they had smoked and how much.

Thirty months later, in May-June 2011 students again answered the questions.  A secret code allowed the researchers to link each child with their prior responses.

Tobacco Advertisements Linked to Smoking

Not surprisingly, the most powerful influence on whether or not children lit up was if their peers did so.  But exposure to cigarette advertising was the second most powerful influence behind the other measured variables.  Other variables measured were gender, socio-economic status, parent’s smoking, television screen time and school performance.

The researchers reported “each additional 10 tobacco advertising contacts increased the adjusted relative risk for established smoking by 38%.”

Click to Read Page Two: Smoking and Ads – Implications

© Copyright 2013 Gina Putt, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Science
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  1. Jenna says

    From what I understand, kids are followers, not leaders. If their parents smoke, they will too. If their friends smoke, they will too. If their favorite tv character smokes, they will too. If tv ads tell them that cigarettes are awesome, that’s what they’re going to think. If tv ads tell them that alcohol is awesome, that’s what they’re going to think. It’s that simple.

    • Gina Putt says

      Jenna, this effect could be measured even when the researchers controlled for parental smoking. Something about the advertisements had more power. Kids are indeed impressionable.

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