While prior research suggests a relationship between exposure to tobacco content in movies and smoking, less is known about the impact of exposure to tobacco through episodic programs. This study assessed the relationship between exposure to tobacco content in programs on Netflix and broadcast or cable TV and initiation of combustible tobacco or e-cigarette use among young people. A nationally representative, longitudinal sample (ages 15-21 at baseline) was surveyed about exposure to episodic programs previously analyzed for the presence of tobacco and subsequent use of combustible tobacco and e-cigarettes. Logistic regression models assessed associations between exposure to tobacco imagery and future initiation of combustible tobacco and e-cigarettes among those who were nicotine naïve (N = 4604). Data were collected in February-May 2018 and February-May 2019. All analyses were conducted in 2019. Results suggest a dose-response relationship between exposure to tobacco and vaping initiation, whereby the higher the exposure, the greater the odds of subsequent initiation (OR(low) = 2.19, 95%CI = 1.38-3.48; OR(medium) = 2.20, 95%CI = 1.34-3.64; OR(high) = 3.17, 95%CI = 1.71-5.88). There was no significant association between exposure to tobacco imagery and smoking initiation. Tobacco imagery is common in episodic programming popular among young people. Results suggest exposure to tobacco in episodic programs may impact future e-cigarette use. Ongoing monitoring of the impact of tobacco content in episodic programs is needed as the number of available programs continues to increase. Findings highlight the need for policy and advocacy efforts to reduce young people's exposure to tobacco content across all media platforms.
Keywords: Media; Prevention; Tobacco; Youth/young adults.
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