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Comparing the effects of entertainment media and tobacco marketing on youth smoking


Objectives: To examine the concurrent effects of exposure to movie smoking and tobacco marketing receptivity on adolescent smoking onset and progression.

Methods: Cross-sectional study of 4524 northern New England adolescents aged 10–14 in 1999 with longitudinal follow-up of 2603 baseline never-smokers. Cross-sectional outcomes included ever tried smoking and higher level of lifetime smoking among 784 experimenters. The longitudinal outcome was onset of smoking among baseline never-smokers two years later. Movie smoking exposure was modelled as four population quartiles, tobacco marketing receptivity included two levels—having a favourite tobacco advert and wanting/owning tobacco promotional items. All analyses controlled for sociodemographics, other social influences, personality characteristics of the adolescent and parenting style.

Results: In the full cross-sectional sample, 17.5% had tried smoking; both exposure to movie smoking and receptivity to tobacco marketing were associated with having tried smoking. Among experimental smokers, the majority (64%) were receptive to tobacco marketing, which had a multivariate association with higher level of lifetime smoking (movie smoking did not). In the longitudinal study 9.5% of baseline never-smokers tried smoking at follow-up. Fewer never-smokers (18.5%) were receptive to tobacco marketing. Movie smoking had a multivariate association with trying smoking (receptivity to tobacco marketing did not).

Conclusions: The results suggest separate roles for entertainment media and tobacco marketing on adolescent smoking. Both exposures deserve equal emphasis from a policy standpoint.

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