Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Smoking Pro-Tobacco Messages Smolder in Young Minds Three Recent Studies Pose Challenges for Public Health Officials in Allegheny County

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Smoking Pro-Tobacco Messages Smolder in Young Minds Three Recent Studies Pose Challenges for Public Health Officials in Allegheny County

Article excerpt

Inside a convenience store, a young adult buys a soft drink and snack while looking askance at a pro-tobacco advertisement before paying the cashier and heading out the door.

No tobacco is purchased. So what's the problem?

A Pittsburgh-based study has found that exposure to pro-tobacco ads and media messages can smolder in the younger brain like a lit cigarette. But the real surprise is that one pro-tobacco message can heighten the young adult's attention to smoking for up to seven days.

Yes, cigarette and tobacco ads work -- and for a longer span than previously thought.

That's the takeaway message of a Rand Corp. study published today in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

"We were surprised at how long the influence of pro-smoking messages lasted," said Steven Martino, Rand senior behavioral scientist. "This suggests that it isn't something that is fleeting. It can be something long-lasting. We detected an increase in intentions to smoke at the time they were exposed, with increased attention to it for up to seven days."

Concern doesn't end once the young adult leaves the store.

"This study confirms our beliefs that the [younger] population is vulnerable and primed to respond positively to messages that give them permission to step outside the boundaries that have been set for them," said Tim Cline, senior director of clinical training and development for the UPMC Health Plan. "Just a single exposure to a tobacco message can derail them from intentions not to smoke and impact them for seven days, by the measures of this study.

"What's really scary is to think that while the tobacco industry may not have done this exact study, they know the information well and have been leveraging it for some period of time with images coming through action and thriller movies and sporting events -- and by socializing tobacco with hookah bars and cigarettes flavored with bubble gum and tutti-frutti that says, 'Kids, this is for you.' "

Rand says 18- to 25-year-olds use tobacco at a rate nearly 50 percent higher than either high school seniors or adults older than 26. Prior research shows that greater exposure to pro-smoking messages raises the risk that young adults will experiment with smoking or progress to regular tobacco use. …

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