Surprise – Tobacco Advertising Increases Teen Smoking

To the surprise of no one, a study has shown that tobacco advertising increases the teenage smoking rate.
To the surprise of no one, a study has shown that tobacco advertising increases the teenage smoking rate.

A recent study out of Germany was conducted to determine the effectiveness tobacco advertising, which in Germany has similar laws to what we have in the United States, has on the teen demographic. The results were far from surprising, finding that teens who observe tobacco advertising have an increased risk of smoking.

This should come as no surprise to anyone. Advertising is designed to get you to do something. If the study would have found that tobacco advertising failed to increase the rate of teen smoking, that would have been a surprising result. If that was the case, the executive in charge of the advertising campaign would have been fired on the spot.

Considering that tobacco businesses are in fact businesses, it should come as no surprise that their goal is for people to smoke. That ensures that the tobacco industry will remain a major force, and that they can continue to support their families through their work. Essentially sharing the same goal that every business owner has for their company, they want to be successful and make money, makes sense doesn’t it?

The study conducted followed 1,320 teenagers for a period of 30 months. They were initially asked to report how often they had observed ads featuring cars, mints, mobile phone providers and candy along with cigarettes so that the focus on smoking in the study would remain unknown by the participants. The teenagers then reported whether or not they smoked, and if they did how often they did so.

After a 30 month interval, the teenagers were again brought in and asked the same questions regarding advertisements they observed, as well as their smoking habits. The results were paired to match the original survey, and then compared so that the effectiveness of the advertising would become visible.

Based on the results, researchers were able to claim that for every ten tobacco advertisements a teenager witnessed, their individual risk of taking up smoking increased by 38 percent. If accurate that would make advertising the second greatest risk factor in teen smoking, ahead of their parents’ smoking habits. The greatest factor in teenage smoking habits are the habits of their friends.

However the fact that this study was even conducted seems preposterous. Is anyone really surprised at the notion that repeatedly viewing an advertisement makes teenagers increases the likelihood that a teenager will do something? They are one of the most influential demographics in the world, with opinions that change seemingly by the day. There is a reason that nearly every trendy product caters their advertisements to teenagers, because it works.

Why should tobacco be treated differently in this case, isolated as if this industry is the bad guy. Energy drinks, alcohol, fast food, and other unhealthy habits all take the same approach to their campaigns. Had this study examined the impact of advertisements on those unhealthy habits, the story would have been the same, just without the publicity.

Yet tobacco remains the target of legislators and public opinion lately, so it should come as no surprise that an advertising study with a negative spin would focus on teenage smoking and tobacco use. The results are far from shocking, but it furthers the evidence that tobacco is being unfairly targeted compared to all of the other unhealthy habits that are allowed to remain out of public wrath.

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille

The Guardian Express

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