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Do Cigarette Ads Make Girls Smoke?

camel_9Teenage girls may be prime targets for tobacco company advertising.  And for good reason–the ads seem to work.

The medical journal Pediatrics conducted a telephone survey of the same group of over 1,000 teens five times between 2003 & 2008.  Initially, the children were between 10 and 13 years old.  Each year, the kids were quizzed on if they had a favorite cigarette ad.   The boys’ response was pretty much the same throughout all five surveys.  The number of girls who could cite a fave was pretty stable as well–until the fifth and final study in 2008.  The percentage of girls who had a preferred ad jumped 10% to 44%.   So what happened in that last year?

Camel #9 happened.  The pink-boxed smokes were supposedly marketed to adult women.  R.J. Reynolds, manufacturer of the cigarettes, placed ads in Glamour and Vogue with promotional giveaways.   The freebies?  Flavored lip balm, purses and cell phone jewelry–tchotchkes made in tween heaven.  The fifth survey showed the results of all their hard work.  The number of girls who said that Camel was their favorite ad popped up to 21%–from a measly 10-13% in earlier years.  And yes, the kids who had a favored cig ad were far more likely to smoke – 50% more as it turns out.

No surprise that the manufacturer pooh-poohs the notion that they would target the young.  Sure, they abandoned print advertising in 2008, but in-store and online promotions–avenues clearly accessible to teens– still receive a chunk of their ad dollars.

Study author John Pierce, a professor of family and preventive medicine and director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, was far from optimistic when asked what parents can do to counter the effect of the ads and blames the lure of the forbidden fruit:

“Parents can try to focus on the issue and pay attention to it, but sometimes the adult admonishing something can be a green light for a teenager. Unfortunately, we don’t have easy prevention strategies for parents to use.”

Sigh. As a former chain smoker who started in her teens (“Newport:  Cool and refreshing as a summer shower…”), this kills me.  What can we do?  Any ideas out there?

Image:  adrants.com

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