Media Send Mixed Messages to Teens About Smoking

August 21, 2008

The media play a crucial role in either encouraging or discouraging young people to start smoking, according to a monograph presented by the National Cancer Institute.

THURSDAY, Aug. 21 (HealthDay News) -- The media play a crucial role in either encouraging or discouraging young people to start smoking, according to a monograph presented by the National Cancer Institute.

Barbara Loken, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and colleagues analyzed media strategies that either promote or reduce tobacco use.

The researchers found that even brief exposure to tobacco advertising and marketing is causally related to smoking initiation among teens, and that smoking occurs in three-quarters or more of contemporary hit movies patronized by teens. Although media campaigns -- especially those with strong negative messages -- can reduce smoking, they said that such campaigns are usually under-funded and that anti-tobacco youth campaigns sponsored by the tobacco industry can actually increase teen smoking.

"Despite considerable success for proponents of tobacco control, tobacco use still accounts for nearly one-third of cancer deaths worldwide, and tobacco-attributable mortality is predicted to increase in the coming decades if current smoking patterns continue," the authors conclude. "If this trend is to be stopped, an in-depth understanding of the media's power for both tobacco control and tobacco promotion must guide the way."

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