Anti-tobacco ads associated with reduced smoking and increased anti-smoking attitudes among youth


CHICAGO — Reduced cigarette smoking and more favorable anti-smoking attitudes were found among youth exposed to state-sponsored anti-tobacco advertising, according to a study in the July issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

The U.S. population has been exposed to an increasing number and variety of televised anti-tobacco advertisements since the early 1990s, according to background information in the article. However, given recent state budget crises and other political influences, many states have severely cut their anti-tobacco campaigns. Despite early evidence suggesting that state-sponsored anti-tobacco media campaigns may reduce adult smoking, few studies have explored their effect on youth.

Sherry Emery, Ph.D., from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and colleagues examined the association between exposure to state anti-tobacco advertising and youth smoking-related beliefs and behaviors. The researchers used targeted ratings point (TRPs) to assess the ratings of an advertisement among U.S. teen audiences. An ad with 80 TRPs per month is estimated to have been seen an average of one time by 80 percent of this age group. This information was combined with survey data from school-based samples of 51,085 students in the contiguous 48 states.

The researchers found that among survey respondents, 14 percent had an average of zero exposures to state-sponsored advertisements in the last four months, 65 percent of the students had an average exposure greater than zero, but less than one, and 21 percent had an average exposure of one or more state-sponsored anti-tobacco advertisements. Students in states with a TRP measure of one or higher were significantly less likely to report having smoked in the past 30 days (18.6 percent) compared with those in markets with no exposure to anti-tobacco advertisements (26.7 percent). Those with one or more state TRPs were more likely to perceive great harm from smoking one or more packs of cigarettes per day (72.1 percent vs. 65.1 percent). Also, students living in areas with an average exposure of at least one state-sponsored anti-tobacco advertisement were more likely to say that they believed they would definitely not be smoking in five years (64 percent vs. 55.3 percent).

"Our analyses suggest that state-sponsored anti-tobacco media campaigns were associated with more favorable antismoking attitudes and beliefs among youth and reduced youth smoking," the authors write. "The strong associations between antismoking attitudes and beliefs, as well as reduced smoking, among students with a state TRP measure of at least one suggest that it is important to maintain a minimal mean exposure level of at least one cumulative state-sponsored anti-tobacco ad per four-month period for the general teen viewing audience."

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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