Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Selling Smoke: Tobacco Ads a Powerful Draw to Teens, Study Finds

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Selling Smoke: Tobacco Ads a Powerful Draw to Teens, Study Finds

Article excerpt

Tobacco advertising is a central factor in encouraging teen-agers to start smoking, perhaps twice as strong an influence as peer pressure, researchers said Tuesday.

The researchers say their finding contradicts the tobacco industry's claim that advertising and marketing are aimed at gaining brand loyalty and market share among children who already smoke, not at encouraging nonsmoking teens to start.

"Marketing is actually stronger than peer pressure in having children take the first step toward becoming an addicted smoker," said John Pierce, a cancer prevention expert at the University of California at San Diego.

Pierce released the research, published in today's edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, at a news conference that coincided with a campaign by anti-smoking and medical groups to support federal efforts to curb youth smoking and restrict advertising and marketing aimed at youths.

Research suggests that most smokers begin as teen-agers. About 3,000 teen-agers start smoking each day, the study found.

Thomas Lauria, a spokesman from the Tobacco Institute trade group, attacked Pierce's research, which included complicated mathematical formulas for "susceptibility" indexes.

"These erroneous conclusions fly in the face of overwhelming international evidence to the contrary," Lauria said in a telephone interview. "The primary reason (youths start smoking) is peer pressure.

"It is appalling that anti-smoking groups would do anything to downplay the pre-eminent reason why young people start smoking," he said. …

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