Relationship between Tobacco Advertising and Youth Smoking: Assessing the Effectiveness of a School-Based, Antismoking Intervention Program

Article excerpt

A significant consumer issue today concerns tobacco advertising and youth smoking behavior and what is being done in the interest of these young consumers to reduce smoking. Since the Master Settlement Agreement earmarked resources for consumer education, progress is being made researching the effectiveness of antismoking advertising and of school-based, antismoking interventions. This paper explores the effectiveness and potential or one such program to encourage additional interdisciplinary research attention and to provide direction in reducing smoking uptake behavior among youth.

Readers delving into the literature on the relationship between tobacco advertising and youth smoking cannot help but be struck by the enormity of the research in the area, as well as the variety of methodological approaches. Even more striking is researchers' certitude in their conclusive statements based on their empirical findings, with some condemning advertising and others merely admonishing (if not forgiving) advertising. While virtually impossible to provide a totally inclusive review of this literature, a summary of important recent work in this area follows, including precisely-worded conclusions specified by the researchers cited, which they often times crafted to sustain the scrutiny of not only social scientists but also of cross-examination in litigation as well.

BACKGROUND

Causal Linkages between Cigarette Advertising and Youth Smoking Behavior

A substantial body of research concludes that there are strong causal linkages between cigarette advertising and youth smoking behavior. For example, Pierce et al. (1998) concluded that "tobacco promotional activities are causally related to the onset of smoking"; Pierce et al. (1991) concluded that "our results suggest that tobacco advertising is causally related to young people becoming addicted to cigarettes" based on respondents' ability to recognize heavily advertised cigarettes brands which "target young people, particularly minors"; and Biener and Siegel (2000) concluded that "attending to cigarette advertising...precede(s) and reliably predict(s) progression to established smoking." In fact, Pollay et al. (1996, 13) went so far as to state, "Cigarette advertising is an important influence on the smoking behavior of the young. Scholars should treat the assertion that cigarette advertising has little or no effect on adolescents as naive and disingenuous."

Other Linkages between Cigarette Advertising and Youth Smoking Behavior

A number of other studies have assessed the impact of advertising on youth smoking and have drawn less pointed (or even contradictory) conclusions. For example, Armstrong et al. (1990, 123) concluded, "We believe that there is now no room for doubt, if there ever really was, that cigarette advertising has an important effect on the uptake of smoking by children." Aitken and Eadie (1990) surveyed youths aged eleven to fourteen and reported their awareness of cigarette advertising "reinforces underage smoking," and Aitken et al. (1991) noted a "predisposing effect on intentions to smoke," adding that "we are not saying that advertising is more important than other influences (in encouraging smoking)."

Botvin et al. (1991, 926) studied eighth and ninth graders and acknowledged, "It would be difficult for behavioral researchers to show unequivocally that such (tobacco) advertising causes adolescents to smoke" in providing their correlational evidence linking advertising recognition to smoking behavior. Evans et al. (1995, 1545) concluded, "Our results support the hypothesis that tobacco marketing may be a stronger current influence in encouraging adolescents to initiate smoking uptake process than demographic characteristics, perceived school performance, or exposure to other smokers in the peer or family network." Altman et al. (1996) employed a nationally representative sample and added that, "there is a strong association between awareness of and involvement with tobacco promotions and being susceptible to tobacco use or a user of tobacco products. …