Friday, June 14, 2013

More Evidence That Marketing Kills

According to new research published in the online only journal BMJ Open, the more teens are exposed to tobacco ads, the more likely they are to take up smoking.  In short, marketing kills.

In their paper, "From never to daily smoking in 30 months: The predictive value of tobacco and non-tobacco advertising exposure," a research team led by Matthis Morgenstern described how they monitored more than 1300 young German non-smokers aged 10 to 15 years old in terms of their exposure to ads over a 2.5 year period.  Specifically, the adolescents were asked how often they had seen images promoting popular cigarette brands in Germany as well as for other non-tobacco products, such as chocolate, clothes, mobile phones, and cars.  They were questioned again 30 months later and asked how many cigarettes they smoked to date and whether they had become regular smokers. You ain't going to like the results, but given the title of this post, you can probably guess what the researchers found:

  • One in three kids (406) admitted to having tried smoking during the 30 month period
  • One in 20 (66)  said they had smoked more than 100 cigarettes (and thus can be classified as    established smokers)
  • A similar proportion (58) said they now smoked every day
  • The greater the exposure to tobacco ads, the greater was the likelihood that the teen would take up smoking
  • Among various factors linked to the kids taking up smoking, smoking among peers proved the strongest influence, followed closely by exposure to tobacco ads.
Summing up their findings, the researchers claim that tobacco ads really do persuade teens to take up smoking, with every 10 sightings boosting the risk by almost 40 per cent.  One caveat that undermines these findings is the fact a large proportion of the original 2300 students involved in the research dropped out.  Thus, it could be there was something else at play that influenced the results relative to the nature of the people who remained in the study.

Source:   Matthis Morgenstern, James D Sargent, Barbara Isensee, Reiner Hanewinkel. From never to daily smoking in 30 months: the predictive value of tobacco and non-tobacco advertising exposure. BMJ Open, 2013 DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-002907

The results of the German research remind me of a series of studies that appeared in the December 1999 issue of the Journal of the American Marketing Association, which provided much fuel for the fire during the litigation against the tobacco industry around that time.  According to one study, after the launch of RJ Reynold's Joe Camel campaign to promote Camel cigarettes, 33% (86 out of 261) of 13-19 year old smokers smoked Camel compared to 8.7% (8 out of 92) 21 and up adult smokers, and the younger group reported much higher exposure, awareness, and liking for the cool Joe ads.  Less than 1% of the young smokers smoked Camels prior to the J.C. campaign.  By the way, if you are a teen reader, don't look at the ad to the left - I don't want to be held responsible for any nasty habit you may acquire.  Is it me, or is smoking oh so 20th century?

Maybe it's me, but I just don't get the fascination for blowing smoke, but this is an orally-fixated world we live in.  I guess people need something to do when they're not gabbing away on their new teddy bears (aka the mobile phone).  As for 21st century smoking, there have been some interesting articles of late in The New York Times on the newly emerging human foible known as 'vaping' - that is, the consumption of electronic cigarettes.  Although there is evidence that the e-cigs effectively cut into rates of smoking traditional nicotine sticks, government officials are doing what they can to restrict their availability and consumption.  The more things change . . .

Further Reading:

You can find my earlier post on e-cigs here.

Fischer PM, Schwartz MP, Richards JW, Jr, Goldstein AO, Rojas TH. Brand logo recognition by children aged 3 to 6 years. Mickey Mouse and Old Joe the Camel. JAMA. 1991 Dec 11;266(22):3145–3148.

A tool to quit smoking has some unlikely critics.  (7 Nov. 2011)

E-cigarettes are in vogue and at a crossroads.  (12 June 2013)

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