Background: Today the uptake of smoking is primarily an adolescent pursuit. Awareness of tobacco advertising and promotion is high, and evidence suggests that it plays a role in adolescent smoking uptake.
Purpose: We evaluated the influence of tobacco advertising and promotion and exposure to smokers on never-smoking adolescents' susceptibility to smoking.
Methods: We used data on 3536 adolescent never smokers (those who had never even puffed on a cigarette) from the 1993 California Tobacco Survey. That survey questioned adolescents about smoking history and inclinations. For this analysis, we defined as susceptible to smoking those never smokers who said on the survey that they could not rule out independently deciding to try a cigarette soon or smoking one offered by a friend. Also for this analysis, we devised two indices: 1) a 5-point index of an individual's receptivity to tobacco advertising as determined by the number of positive responses to five survey items (recognition of advertising messages, having a favorite advertisement, naming a brand he/she might buy, owning a tobacco-related promotional item, and willingness to use a tobacco-related promotional item) and 2) an index classifying an individual's reported exposure to family and peer smoking into one of four levels. Using logistic regression, we assessed the independent importance of our indices in predicting susceptibility to smoking after adjustment for sociodemographic variables, including age, sex, and race/ethnicity, and for perceived school performance. Tests of statistical significance were two-sided.
Results: Receptivity to tobacco advertising and exposure to smokers were independently associated with susceptibility to smoking, but the relationship appeared stronger for receptivity to advertising. Adolescents exposed to family members and peers (n = 489) who smoked were 1.89 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.30-2.74) times as likely to be susceptible, whereas adolescents who scored 4 or more on the Index of Receptivity to Tobacco Marketing (n = 361) were 3.91 (95% CI = 2.38-6.42) times as likely to be susceptible as those who scored 0. Even adolescents who scored 2 (n = 1090) were 2.03 (95% CI = 1.31-3.15) times as likely to be susceptible. There was no interaction effect between score on the Index of Receptivity to Tobacco Marketing and exposure to smokers.
Conclusion: Our results support the hypothesis that tobacco marketing may be a stronger current influence in encouraging adolescents to initiate the smoking uptake process than exposure to peer or family smokers or sociodemographic variables including perceived school performance.