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Marketing Professor Finds Youth More Influenced by Cigarette Advertising Than Adults


May 1996

In a study hailed by anti-smoking advocates, a Canadian marketing professor found that teen smokers are more likely to be influenced by strategic tobacco advertising than adults (Associated Press, "Teen-Agers Are More Responsive to Cigarette Ads, Study Says," New York Times, April 4, 1996, p. B11; Sheryl Stolberg, "Study: Teens More Apt to Heed Cigarette Ads," Los Angeles Times (Washington Edition), April 4, 1996, p. A8).

Professor Richard Pollay of the University of British Columbia found that teens who are smokers are three times more likely to base their cigarette purchases on advertising than adults. He found that a 10 percent increase in a company's advertising budget will yield a 3 percent increase their adult share of the cigarette market and a 9 percent increase in the youth share.

The study, published in the Journal of Marketing, outlines Pollay's review of the past 20 years of cigarette advertising and smoking trends among youth and adults. "Whatever the intent of the [cigarette] firms," he said at a news conference, "it is the youth of the nation who pay attention to and respond to the advertising." Pollay's study did not examine whether advertising encourages teens to start smoking, only the influence of advertising on purchasing patterns of those who were already smoking.

Pollay noted that advertisers of Marlboro, Camel, and Newport brands have been accused of appealing to youth. His study shows that 12.7 percent of all cigarette advertising is for the Marlboro brand, which holds 21.9 percent of the adult and 59.5 percent of the youth market. Camel brand represents 4.9 percent of advertising, with 3.7 percent of the adult market and 8.7 percent of the youth market. 4.7 percent of cigarette advertising is for Newport brand, which holds 3.8 percent of adult smokers and 11.1 percent of teens.

Pollay contrasted Marlboro, Camel, and Newport advertising with ads for Winston, which usually depict outdoor scenery and mountains. 6.9 percent of all cigarette advertisements are for Winston, which holds 9.6 percent of the adult market but only 2.5 percent of the youth market.

The study is significant in light of the Food and Drug Administration's recent attempts to regulate advertising by tobacco companies.