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Study: Youth Smoking Rates Tied to Perception of Tobacco Industry

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Media campaigns that present the tobacco industry in a negative light can cut smoking rates among young adults, Science Daily reported May 6.

Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) studied the relationship between attitudes about the tobacco industry and the smoking behaviors of adults between the ages of 18-25. The researchers asked participants how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the following statements: “Taking a stand against smoking is important to me;” “I want to be involved with efforts to get rid of cigarette smoking;” and “I would like to see cigarette companies go out of business.”

Those participants who supported taking action against the industry and agreed with these three statements were one-third as likely to be smokers as those who disagreed with the statements. Also, current smokers who had negative attitudes towards the tobacco industry were more than four times more likely to make a plan to stop smoking than smokers who did not support action against the tobacco industry.

“Running anti-tobacco ads to expose the fact that the tobacco industry kills five million people worldwide annually turns out to be hugely successful in preventing and promoting cessation,” said study co-author Stanton Glantz, Ph.D., who is the director of UCSF's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. 

The study is the first to look at a national sample of attitudes toward the tobacco industry and smoking behavior among young adults, the researchers said. “The results show a huge effect of attitudes linked to advertising campaigns that focus on portraying the tobacco industry in a negative light,” said lead author Pamela Ling. “The tobacco industry cares a lot about public opinion and hates those ads, because the ads make the industry look bad.”

The findings were published online May 9, 2009 in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

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