Objective: To describe and understand variations in cigarette brand preferences between adolescents from varying ethnic and gender groups around the US.
Design: A qualitative study where adolescents, both smokers and nonsmokers, were interviewed individually in depth.
Setting: Schools and recreation centers in four sites: urban Maryland (Baltimore), urban Texas (Houston), rural Alabama and rural New Mexico.
Participants: 121 adolescent volunteers 13-19 years of age, representing African American, white, American Indian and Hispanic ethnic groups, from both genders.
Results: Considerable geographic and ethnic variation exists in terminology used by youth to refer to cigarettes and to their use. Clear patterns in brand preference by ethnic group were found that follow patterns of targeted marketing by ethnicity. White teens preferred Marlboro brand cigarettes, while African-American teens who smoke preferred Newports. Hispanic and American Indian teens were more likely to smoke Marlboro or Camel cigarettes. Hispanic teens were most likely to mention low price as a reason for choosing a particular brand or to state that the brand does not matter. Tobacco advertisements targeting ethnic groups and the use of promotional items to encourage teen smoking were also recognized as factors influencing brand preferences.
Conclusions: These findings have implications for the design of intervention programs aimed at curbing teen smoking. When working with teens who already smoke, using youth language to target messages at perceived characteristics of commonly used brands may be more effective and meaningful than talking about cigarette use in general. Another implication of this work is to shed light on what impact an advertising ban would have on teen brand preferences, brand loyalty, and prevalence of smoking.