Media Can Play Key Role in Youth Tobacco Use, Prevention

The Nation's Health, October 2008 | Go to article overview

Media Can Play Key Role in Youth Tobacco Use, Prevention


With mass media more prominent than ever in the lives of young people, action must be taken now to reduce exposure to tobacco marketing, according to some of the nation's leading public health and anti-tobacco advocates.

At an August news conference in Washington, D.C., advocates gathered to support the release of a National Cancer Institute report examining the power of the media to both promote and reduce tobacco use among youth, highlighting the "government's strongest conclusion to date that tobacco marketing causes kids to smoke and that anti-tobacco advertising campaigns prevent smoking." After reviewing more than 1,000 scientific studies, the report's authors concluded that tobacco ads and promotions are "causally related" to increased tobacco use, and that exposure to movie images of smoking is also "causally related" to adolescents' first forays into smoking. The report, the "Role of the Media in Promoting and Reducing Tobacco Use," is the 19th volume of the institute's Tobacco Control Monograph series and is part of an ongoing blueprint for public health action on tobacco use, which is currently the largest cause of preventable death in the United States.

"This new report provides compelling evidence that the tobacco industry continues to market to our children," said APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E), who spoke at the D.C. news conference. "It is essential that we protect the health of our nation's youth by halting promotion aimed at encouraging our kids to take up smoking." Among the most heavily marketed products in the country, U.S. cigarette producers spent about $250 billion on advertising and promotion between 1940 and 2005, spending $13.5 billion in 2005 alone, the report found. To reach young people, the industry's advertising techniques specifically target the psychological pressures common to many youth, such as the desire to be popular and accepted by peers. And such messages are moving to media mediums that youth are particularly adept at, such as the Internet. In fact, the report found, less than 1 percent of cigarette marketing expenditures are now used to advertise in traditional print media, with most cigarette marketing budgets aimed at promotional activities, such as price discounts. …

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