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Review: Tobacco Ads a Big Draw In Study

Dalton, R. Tobacco Ads a Big Draw in Study. (1995, October 18). San Diego UnionTribune, pp. A1, A20.


(Download Tobacco Ads overview as a PDF)

University of California at San Diego (UCSD) researchers found that tobacco ads are more likely to influence adolescents to smoke than peer pressure. The study, which may contribute to future regulations on cigarette sales, is the first to report that tobacco marketing can be stronger than peer pressure-once thought to be the primary cause of adolescent smoking.

Officials from the Tobacco Institute, a Washington, D.C. trade group for cigarette manufacturers, claim that the research conflicts with accepted views on adolescent smoking. Thomas Lauria, a speaker for the Institute, claimed that the research is counterproductive, if not misleading, and called the pressure from peers to smoke “very real and very vivid.”

Lauria says the UCSD study is meant to support the federal Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) move to regulate advertising and sales of cigarettes. Elizabeth Gilpin, co-author of the research from the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at UCSD, agrees that the study does support the FDA cigarette-regulation proposal-which would include a ban on cigarette vending machines, a requirement that cigarette buyers must prove that they are at least 18-and limits cigarette billboard ads in the vicinity of schools.

The UCSD research team, led by John P. Pierce, analyzed the attitudes of 3,536 adolescents who had never smoked. Pierce devised a method to quantify the susceptibility of the young people to cigarette advertisements versus peer pressure. He found that the adolescents were twice as likely to be drawn to smoking by advertisements than by peer pressure. Promotional materials such as T-shirts and cigarette lighters were found to be a main influence on young people.

In monitoring susceptibility, the research team found that

  • Boys 12 to 13 who had not smoked are more likely to be interested in smoking than girls of the same age group.
  • Boys and girls become equally susceptible to smoking as they reach the 16 and 17 age group.
  • Boys 14 to 15 who had never smoked before are most likely to begin smoking, with 30.1 percent of them being found susceptible. Of girls in this age bracket, 26.4 percent are susceptible to begin smoking.
  • Eighty-four percent of adolescents who had not smoked agree that cigarette advertisements promote smoking as beneficial in at least one way.
  • Forty percent of adolescents who had never tried a cigarette could name a brand that they would prefer to smoke. Marlboro ranked the highest.

Questions for Reflections and Discussion

  1. What is your feeling? Do you think tobacco ads have more influence than peer pressure?
  2. Off the top of your head, can you think of any cigarette company slogans or icons? What is it about that particular cigarette brand that first captured your attention?
  3. Do you think peer pressure to smoke is decreasing? How do the people you know feel about smoking?
  4. Why do you think young people decide to take up smoking?


  1. The tobacco industry contends that cigarette ads are meant to target current smokers only. However, the ads are seen by all types of people-smokers and non-smokers, children and adults. The ads tend to glorify the habit and often fail to warn of its dangers.
  2. Peer pressure has always been a problem for adolescents. Parents, teachers, and youth workers need to reinforce the importance of thinking for oneself rather than agreeing with the group.

Sheila Walsh
© 2018 CYS

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