According to a study recently published in the journal, Pediatrics, e-cigarette ads market to America’s youth, and influence children to start smoking actual cigarettes.
The study, known as the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH), is sponsored by the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California San Diego and Dartmouth University’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center. The study involved nearly 11,000 subjects between the ages of 12 and 17 who had never tried tobacco products.
When exposed to non-cigarette tobacco related ads, including e-cigarettes ads, the subjects were asked:
- How curious they were about the product
- Plans to try such products in the future, and
- How likely they were to try tobacco based on a friend’s recommendation, or if it was offered to them.
Subjects that reacted negatively to all three questions were eliminated from the study. Those who remained in the final testing group were shown 20 tobacco advertisements randomly selected from a group or nearly 1,000 promotions in different forms of media. Afterwards, the subjects were asked which ad was their favorite, and then were shown ads for combustible cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes and asked if they like the ad.
The study showed that 41.0 percent to 49.5 percent of youth between 12 and 17 were receptive to tobacco advertising.
However, under critical review the study in question may have a deviated “true” representation of youth’s susceptibility to tobacco advertisements. The first factor that must be taken into account of this study is that the subjects were asked to identify ads by memory. While recalling an ad does evidence a subject’s exposure, attention to, and retention of a message, and is the initial process of marketing influence, it does “not necessarily indicate openness to an ad’s influence.” It is possible that media literacy (the ability to interpret ads and recognize their messages and influences) plays a part in youth’s ability to counteract a tobacco ad’s influence. As Pediatrics noted, “Only 8.8% to 15.0% of nonsmoking youth are tobacco-ad receptive if one limits the definition to PATH participants who liked a tobacco ad or had a favorite ad.” The reality is that the percentage of youth that are being influenced by tobacco ads probably lies somewhere between the subjects who reported liking or having a favorite tobacco ad, and the near 50 percent that was reported by the PATH study.
This is not to say that the PATH study is not accurate, but that it should be interpreted with a grain of salt, so to speak. Although, the fact that tobacco ads influence youth is still a major concern. Dr. John Pierce, one of the behavioral scientists who authored the PATH study, stated, “The imagery used by tobacco companies focuses on the aspirations of young people…those who have an emotive response to these aspirational images are more likely to see use of the product as a way to achieve their aspirations.”
Another previous study has results that fell in line with the PATH study, providing further evidence that non-cigarette tobacco ads are influencing youth. Lead author of the study, professor of medicine and director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, Stanton A. Glantz, PHD, stated, “E-cigarettes are encouraging — not discouraging — youth to smoke and to consume nicotine, and are expanding the tobacco market.”
Be sure to check USRecallNews.com for information about the dangers of e-cigarettes.