Background: Exposure to tobacco and alcohol advertising has been associated with adolescent substance use. However, it is not clear whether favorable reactions to advertising are an antecedent to or a consequence of substance use. This study investigated relationships between adolescents' levels of susceptibility to substance use and their recognition and liking of tobacco and alcohol advertising.
Method: Eighth-grade students viewed pictures of tobacco and alcohol advertisements with brand names and identifying information obscured, attempted to identify the brand name and type of product being advertised, and rated their liking of the advertisements. Subjects were divided into three substance use status groups: nonsusceptible nonusers (have never used and do not intend to do so), susceptible nonusers (have not used but have not made a firm commitment not to experiment in the future), and users (have tried the substance).
Results: Susceptible nonusers liked the tobacco advertisements at a level that was significantly greater than that of the nonsusceptible nonsmokers and comparable to that of the users. Liking of the alcohol advertisements generally increased with alcohol use status.
Conclusions: These results suggest that tobacco advertisements ostensibly targeted to adult smokers may have the effect of recruiting new adolescent smokers.