Background: The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between adolescents' favorite movie stars and their smoking status, controlling for variables associated with smoking initiation.
Methods: The 1996 California Tobacco Survey questioned 6,252 adolescents about their favorite stars, smoking history, exposure to smokers, rebelliousness, knowledge and attitudes regarding smoking, and cigarette advertising and promotion. The top 10 favorite stars were tested for differential preference between ever and never smokers, defined as those who had never puffed on a cigarette. Never smokers were categorized as susceptible or nonsusceptible to smoking.
Results: Favorite stars differed significantly among adolescent ever and never smokers. A majority of favorite stars of ever smokers smoked on and off screen compared to favorite stars of never smokers. In multivariate analyses, adolescent never smokers who preferred favorite stars of adolescent ever smokers were significantly more likely to be susceptible to smoking (OR = 1.35; 95% CI 1.12, 1.62), even after adjustment for known predictors of adolescent smoking and demographic variables. This effect was only slightly weaker than that of exposure to friends and family who smoke (OR = 1.45; 95% CI 1.13, 1.85).
Conclusions: This study provides preliminary evidence that stars who smoke on and off screen may encourage youth to smoke.