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The role of media in smoking initiation & cessation

Institution: University of California, San Diego
Investigator(s): David Burns, M.D.
Award Cycle: 2000 (Cycle 9) Grant #: 9RT-0048 Award: $98,395
Subject Area: Public Health, Public Policy, and Economics
Award Type: Research Project Awards

Initial Award Abstract
Disparities in cigarette brand preferences between non-Hispanic Whites and African-Americans, as well as research demonstrating the relationship between advertising and adolescent initiation, suggest that the cigarette companies target their advertising to African-Americans and to adolescents. Mounting evidence-linking advertising to adolescent tobacco use may provide policy makers with a strong justification to further restrict tobacco advertising. In the extension of this grant provided by the Shannon Award we will study the influence of advertising practices targeting African-Americans and adolescents.

We will define the association between advertising targeting African –Americans and African –American brand preference as well as ethnic specific adolescent initiation rates. Using data we have collected on quantitative and qualitative advertising in the 13 largest circulation periodicals we will develop quantitative estimates of brand specific advertising using African-Americans in general readership periodicals as well as quantitative estimates for brand specific advertising for predominantly African-American cigarette brands in general readership periodicals. Using this data we will define onset of targeting of African-Americans by Newport Kool and Salem brands. We will then associate the targeting of African-Americans with increases in market share of Kool and Newport brands of cigarettes and with temporal trends in increases in African-American adolescent initiation.

In addition, we will define the temporal and thematic associations between advertising campaigns for Marlboro, Camel and Virginia Slims in relation to initiation by adolescents of different race/ethnicity and genders. Specifically we will define the thematic content of the Camel advertising campaigns from 1975 to 1990 and relate that change in thematic content to changes in male adolescent initiation and define the temporal association between the introduction of the Marlboro cowboy as a part of the Marlboro advertising and changes in adolescent male initiation rates.

Final Report
Despite claims to the contrary by the tobacco industry, cigarette advertising has targeted underage smokers, African Americans and other racial/ethnic groups, as well as concerned smokers who were contemplating quitting. As a result of this advertising, rates of smoking prevalence increased for adolescents during most of the 1990s, and until recently, smoking prevalence was higher among African-American smokers than among white smokers. It is also likely that the heavy advertising of low-tar cigarettes during the mid-1970s and early 1980s resulted in many smokers switching to low-yield brands rather than quitting smoking.

Using our cigarette advertising database and cigarette sales data, we examined the temporal relationship between the advertising and sales of the top 20 advertised low-tar brands between 1960 and 1996. Results showed that increases in the sales of low-tar cigarettes lagged behind the rise in advertising that featured low-tar themes prior to 1975. After 1975, the sales of these brands increased rapidly following a dramatic increase in advertising. The advertising for stand-alone low-tar brands (Carlton, True, etc.) rose slowly from 1960 to 1975 followed by a steeper rise between 1975 and 1981. Increases in sales of these stand-alone brands lagged behind increases in advertising; however sales increased dramatically after 1975 corresponding to a rapid increase in the advertising of these brands. The sales of low-tar brand extensions such as Marlboro Light and Camel Light also lagged behind increases in advertising for these brands. There was a steady increase in the advertising of low-tar brand extensions between 1969 and 1974, but dramatic increases in sales for these brands did not occur until 1975. The proportion of advertising and sales for low-tar product extensions rose more sharply than the advertising and sales for stand-alone brands, suggesting it may have been easier to get smokers to switch to low-tar extensions than it was to get smokers to try new low-tar brands.

We also examined whether the thematic content of advertisements for mentholated cigarettes popular with African Americans (e.g., Newport and Kool) differed from the thematic content of advertisements for non-mentholated brands popular with whites (e.g., Marlboro, Camel, and Winston). Analysis of the thematic data revealed that advertisements with people themes (themes that describe people or activities pictured in the advertisement) were more likely to appear in ads for cigarette brands preferred by African Americans than those brands preferred by whites. Themes related to smoker’s economic concerns (i.e., the price of cigarettes) were more likely to appear in ads for brands preferred by African Americans; however, themes related to the smoker’s health were no more likely to appear in ads favored by African Americans than those preferred by whites. The results of this study suggest that the cigarette companies are using different advertising themes for white and African-America smokers. Future analysis will include the comparison of these same themes for cigarette advertising in magazines popular with African Americans.