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Seeing, wanting, owning: the relationship between receptivity to tobacco marketing and smoking susceptibility in young people
  1. Ellen Feighery,
  2. Dina L G Borzekowski,
  3. Caroline Schooler,
  4. June Flora
  1. Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, California, USA
  1. E Feighery, Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention, Stanford University School of Medicine, 1000 Welch Road, Palo Alto, California 94304–1825, USA.feighery{at}


OBJECTIVE To assess the effect of the tobacco industry’s marketing practices on adolescents by examining the relationship between their receptivity to these practices and their susceptibility to start smoking.

DESIGN Paper-and-pencil surveys measuring association with other smokers, exposure to tobacco industry marketing strategies, experience with smoking, and resolve not to smoke in the future.

SETTING 25 randomly selected classrooms in five middle schools in San Jose, California.

SUBJECTS 571 seventh graders with an average age of 13 years and 8 months; 57% were female. Forty-five per cent of the students were Asian, 38% were Hispanic, 12% were white, and 5% were black.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES Exposure to social influences, receptivity to marketing strategies, susceptibility to start smoking.

RESULTS About 70% of the participants indicated at least moderate receptivity to tobacco marketing materials. Children who are more receptive are also more susceptible to start smoking. In addition to demographics and social influences, receptivity to tobacco marketing materials was found to be strongly associated with susceptibility.

CONCLUSIONS Tobacco companies conduct marketing campaigns that effectively capture teenage attention and stimulate desire for their promotional items. These marketing strategies may function to move young teenagers from non-smoking status toward regular use of tobacco. Our results demonstrate that there is a clear association between tobacco marketing practices and youngsters’ susceptibility to smoke. The findings, along with other research, provide compelling support for regulating the manner in which tobacco products are marketed, to protect young people from the tobacco industry’s strategies to reach them.

  • adolescents
  • advertising
  • smoking initiation

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