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Perception of foreign cigarettes and their advertising in China: a study of college students from 12 universities
  1. Shu-Hong Zhua,
  2. Dewei Lia,
  3. Buoling Fengb,
  4. Tong Zhuc,
  5. Christopher M Andersona
  1. aUniversity of California, San Diego, California, USA, bBeijing Institute of Social Psychology, Beijing, China, cWenzhou Tumour Hospital, Wenzhou, China
  1. Dr Shu-Hong Zhu, Cancer Center, 0905, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093–0905, USA.szhu{at}


OBJECTIVE To examine how deeply foreign cigarette advertising had penetrated the Chinese market when a new ban on cigarette advertising was enacted in February 1995.

DESIGN A survey using self-completion questionnaires administered in college classrooms from November 1994 to March 1995.

SETTINGS Eight universities and four medical schools in three Chinese cities: Beijing, Wenzhou, and Hangzhou.

SUBJECTS 1896 college students who agreed to complete a written questionnaire. The mean age was 21.2 years; 39.5% of respondents were female.

RESULTS Four of the top eight cigarette brands most familiar to the respondents were foreign: Marlboro, 555, Kent, and Hilton. Advertisements for the foreign brands were much more likely to be seen than those for the domestic brands; those for Marlboro were reported most often (29.7%), followed by 555 (21.8%) and Kent (18.1%). Among smokers, Marlboro was the most preferred foreign brand, by 44.2%. The preference for Marlboro was also correlated with smokers having seen its advertisements. Most respondents, 71.8%, believed that cigarette advertising should be banned.

CONCLUSIONS The previous restrictions on cigarette advertising in China failed to prevent a large portion of the population from seeing and understanding the advertisements. Before the 1995 advertising ban took effect, strict limitations on imports of foreign cigarettes notwithstanding, certain highly advertised brands such as Marlboro achieved wide recognition and even consumer preference. Stricter restrictions are suggested as previous ones have failed to achieve their intended effects.

  • China
  • advertising
  • brand preferences

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