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Relation between newspaper coverage of ‘light’ cigarette litigation and beliefs about ‘lights’ among American adolescents and young adults: the impact on risk perceptions and quitting intentions


Aim To investigate the impact of newspaper use in a year of increased coverage of litigation against the tobacco industry on youths' beliefs about the health risks of ‘light’ cigarettes, and examine relations between inaccurate beliefs about ‘lights’, perceptions of risk and intentions to quit smoking.

Participants The data come from the 2004 National Annenberg Survey of Youth, a representative random digit dial telephone survey of youths aged 14–22 years in the USA (n=1501; current smokers, n=305; ‘lights’ smokers, n=112).

Design All youths were asked about newspaper use and beliefs regarding ‘light’ cigarettes (riskiness, addictiveness, ease of quitting). Smokers reported on risk perceptions and quitting intentions. We also examined changes in newspaper coverage related to ‘lights’ from January 2001 to April 2004.

Results Newspaper coverage related to ‘lights’ increased in the first months of 2003, and continued into 2004. Logistic regression analyses suggest that ‘lights’ smokers with lower levels of newspaper use were most likely to hold inaccurate beliefs about ‘lights’ (OR=5.93, 95% CI 1.48 to 23.77). Smokers of ‘lights’ with inaccurate beliefs were less likely to perceive their smoking as risky (OR=0.29, 95% CI 0.11 to 0.87), and smokers with inaccurate beliefs were less likely to have strong quitting intentions (OR=0.52, 95% CI 0.28 to 0.96).

Conclusions Inaccurate beliefs about the risks of ‘lights’ were negatively related to youth smokers' perceptions of risk and intentions to quit smoking. News coverage surrounding the tobacco industry's failure to disclose these risks might help reduce these inaccurate, and potentially dangerous, beliefs.

  • Youth
  • news media
  • light cigarettes
  • risk beliefs
  • quitting intentions
  • advocacy
  • litigation
  • public policy

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