Tobacco marketing reaches children as young as 5 years old influencing their attitudes about smoking and smokers, according to a study of children in Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Russia recently published in the journal Child: Care, Health & Development. The research study, led by Dr. Dina Borzekowski, research professor in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health at the University of Maryland adds to her body of work on the impact of media on children’s health.
The research team assessed the children’s level of familiarity with tobacco branding, their intention to smoke in the future, and their overall exposure to media. Among 5-and-6-year-old children in the six counties, nearly 68 percent were able to identify one tobacco logo and more than 25 percent could identify two or more. Higher levels of media exposure were not necessarily associated with better knowledge of tobacco brands. However, in three of the sample countries the presence of an adult in the home was also not a significant factor in brand knowledge, suggesting that advertising plays a role in the exposure of very young children to tobacco brands and smoking behavior.
Although tobacco companies face weaker regulations overseas, they spent $9.6 billion on advertising in the United States in 2012. A U.S. Surgeon General’s report suggests that these companies continue to target marketing to American adolescents, portraying smoking or smokeless tobacco use as a desirable behavior. Considering the approximately 3.5 middle and high school students who used tobacco in 2012, it’s working.
Extensive information about tobacco marketing and promotion is available at the Stanford Research Into the Impact of Advertising (SRITA) webpage.
Study Citation: Pires, P. P., Ribas, R. C., Borzekowski, D. L. G. (2015). Attitudes and intentions to smoke: a study of young Brazilian children. Child: Care, Health and Development.1365-2214 http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cch.12240