Ads turn teenagers on to smoking

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN a third of teenagers are lured into experimenting with cigarettes by tobacco advertising and promotion, researchers say.

The power of advertising in recruiting young smokers is demonstrated by a study which shows teenagers who notice cigarette ads or acquire a promotional item are much more likely to take up smoking than others.

Scientists who interviewed 1,750 American adolescents aged 12 to 17 in 1993 who had never smoked and who said they had no plans to start, even if a friend offered them a cigarette, found half had progressed towards smoking when interviewed again three years later.

Almost 30 per cent had experimented with smoking and 3.6 per cent had consumed at least 100 cigarettes in total. A further 16.6 per cent had become susceptible to smoking.

The change in their attitude over the three years was closely linked to their attitude to cigarette advertising. Those who had a favourite ad in 1993, more than half the total, were twice as likely to have started smoking in 1996 or to be willing to start.

Those who owned a promotional item or were willing to use one in 1993 were nearly three times as likley to progress towards smoking.

The authors, from the University of California, say in the Journal of the American Medical Association: "We estimate that 34 per cent of all experimentation in California between 1993 and 1996 can be attributed to tobacco promotional activities." They say the influence of advertising was greater than that of other smokers, contrary to the findings of other studies.