Background: Recent studies have shown that tobacco advertising leads to the onset of smoking among adolescents. However, much more still remains to be learned about the impact of tobacco advertising in the later transitions, mainly from experimentation to established smoking. In this study, we focused on the influence of tobacco advertising and promotions on the transition from experimentation to established smoking.
Methods: Data were derived from a longitudinal survey of adolescents in California. Adolescents who were classified as experimenters at baseline were included in the analyses (N=965). Receptivity to tobacco advertising and promotions refers to the development of a positive affective response to the communication (e.g., having a favorite tobacco advertisement or being willing to use a promotional item).
Results: Approximately 32% of adolescents who were experimenters at baseline in 1993, progressed to established smoking by follow-up in 1996. Progression was higher among Caucasian (37.3%) than Hispanic (21.9%) or African-American (17.6%) adolescents. Adolescents who perceived that most of their peers smoked, had poor relationships with family members, and were exposed to smoking friends and family members were more likely to progress to established smoking at follow-up in 1996. In addition, adolescents who were receptive to advertising and believed that they could quit anytime were more likely to progress to established smoking than those who did not think they could quit anytime. Adolescents who were willing to use a promotional item and who believed that they could quit anytime had the highest rate of progression to established smoking (52%).
Conclusions: This study provides evidence that receptivity to tobacco advertising and promotions is an important factor in progressing from experimentation to established smoking among adolescents. Because perceived ability to quit made adolescents more likely to progress, counter-tobacco marketing campaigns should incorporate messages about addiction and difficulties associated with quitting.