Objectives: We assessed young adults' exposure to the tobacco industry marketing strategy of sponsoring social events at bars, nightclubs, and college campuses.
Methods: We analyzed data from the 2001 Harvard College Alcohol Study, a random sample of 10904 students enrolled in 119 nationally representative 4-year colleges and universities.
Results: During the 2000-2001 school year, 8.5% of respondents attended a bar, nightclub, or campus social event where free cigarettes were distributed. Events were reported by students attending 118 of the 119 schools (99.2%). Attendance was associated with a higher student smoking prevalence after we adjusted for demographic factors, alcohol use, and recent bar/nightclub attendance. This association remained for students who did not smoke regularly before 19 years of age but not for students who smoked regularly by 19 years of age.
Conclusions: Attendance at a tobacco industry-sponsored event at a bar, nightclub, or campus party was associated with a higher smoking prevalence among college students. Promotional events may encourage the initiation or the progression of tobacco use among college students who are not smoking regularly when they enter college.