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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: 2001 (Cycle 10) Grant #: 10RT-0132 Award: $414,203
Subject Area: Public Health, Public Policy, and Economics
Award Type: Research Project Awards

Initial Award Abstract
Currently, if an individual reaches adulthood (18 years) without starting to smoke, they are very unlikely to ever become a cigarette smoker. Over 95% of the initiation of regular tobacco use occur prior to age 25, and the highest rates of initiation occur between the ages of 15-17 years. The tobacco industry is aware of this data despite their claims that the purpose of advertising their product is to influence brand preference and not to promote adolescent initiation. Because of the mounting evidence linking tobacco industry marketing campaigns to adolescent initiation, public health advocates, and more recently the FDA, have suggested that strongly restricting or eliminating tobacco advertising may be an essential step in reducing adolescent initiation.

For this grant, we will focus on the targeting of African-Americans by the tobacco companies and demonstrate how targeting influences sales of cigarettes preferred by African-Americans and initiation rates among African-American adolescents. We will quantify the advertising for brands popular with African-Americans in magazines with high African-American readership and compare this advertising for the same brands in general readership magazines. We will also compare the thematic differences for these brands between African-American oriented magazines and general readership magazines.

As part of the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), the cigarette companies agreed to stop targeting adolescents through print advertising. In order to determine if the tobacco companies have changed their advertising practices after the MSA, we will track changes in the advertising practices of cigarette companies prior to and following the MSA. Specifically, we will examine whether cigarette companies are continuing to target adolescents by placing an excess number of advertisements for brands popular with youth (Marlboro, Camel, Newport, etc.) in magazines with a large adolescent readership. We will also examine the thematic differences between cigarette advertisements placed in youth oriented magazines and cigarette advertisements placed in magazines that are not popular with adolescents.

The recent promise by Phillip Morris to eliminate all of their cigarette brand advertising from magazines popular with adolescents provides a timely opportunity to determine whether the manufacturer of the most popular cigarette in the U.S. (Marlboro) will follow through with this promise. We will examine if Phillip Morris continues to advertise in magazines popular with adolescents after the date that they specified as to when advertising in these magazines would end (September 2000). We will also examine whether Phillip Morris compensates for this reduction in advertising by increasing their cigarette advertising in general readership magazines. Because other cigarette companies may increase their advertising of youth brands (Camel, Newport, Kool) as a result of Phillip Morris’ decrease in advertising, we will also track the advertising of those other youth brands after September 2000.