Aims: To examine differential effects of smoking in films and tobacco advertising on adolescent smoking. We hypothesize that movie smoking will have greater effects on smoking initiation, whereas tobacco advertising receptivity will primarily affect experimentation.
Design: Longitudinal observational study of adolescents.
Setting: School-based surveys conducted in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.
Participants: A total of 4384 adolescents age 11-15 years at baseline and re-surveyed 1 year later; ever smoking prevalence was 38% at time 1.
Measurements: The main outcome variable combined two items assessing life-time and current smoking (alpha = 0.87). Baseline never smokers were analyzed separately from those who had tried smoking (ever smokers). Exposure to smoking in 398 internationally distributed US movies was modeled as a continuous variable, with 0 corresponding to the 5th percentile and 1 to the 95th percentile of exposure. Tobacco marketing receptivity consisted of naming a brand for a favorite tobacco advertisement. Ordinal logistic regressions controlled for socio-demographics, other social influences, personality characteristics of the adolescent and parenting style.
Findings: Whereas 34% of ever smokers were receptive to tobacco marketing at time 1, only 6% of never smokers were. Among time 1 never smokers, exposure to movie smoking was a significantly stronger predictor of higher time 2 smoking level [adjusted proportional odds ratio = 2.76, 95% confidence interval (1.84, 4.15)] than was tobacco marketing receptivity (1.53 [1.07, 2.20]). Among time 1 ever smokers, both tobacco marketing receptivity and exposure to movie smoking predicted higher levels of time 2 smoking [2.17 (1.78, 2.63) and 1.62 (1.18, 2.23), respectively], and the two estimates were not significantly different.
Conclusions: In this longitudinal study, exposure to movie smoking was a stronger predictor of smoking initiation than tobacco marketing receptivity, which was more common among ever smokers. The results suggest that entertainment media smoking should be emphasized in programs aimed at preventing onset, and both exposures should be emphasized in programs aimed at experimental smokers.