Background: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in its 1996 regulations to restrict certain forms of cigarette advertising likely to appeal to adolescents, prohibited outdoor tobacco advertising within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds. No published studies have determined the density of outdoor tobacco advertising within the FDA's prescribed 1,000-foot buffer zone around schools.
Objective: To determine the prevalence, type, and proximity to public schools of all stationary, outdoor tobacco advertising in six Boston neighborhoods.
Design: A cross-sectional field survey conducted in six Boston neighborhoods with varying ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic characteristics. The main outcome measure was advertising density within buffer zones around public schools.
Results: Youth in the six neighborhoods are heavily exposed to stationary, outdoor cigarette advertising. This exposure is intense in areas close to public schools, and more intense in neighborhoods with more children, with significant Black and Hispanic/Latino populations, and with low socioeconomic status. Advertising strategies employed by the tobacco industry are in line with accepted professional marketing practice that targets adolescents for other products.
Conclusions: Given the pervasive nature of the outdoor tobacco advertising we observed in the present study, it appears that the only way to protect youth from exposure is by eliminating it from the community.