Youth Anti-Smoking Ads Can Have Opposite Effect

Parent-targeted anti-smoking ads may encourage teen smoking

THURSDAY, Nov. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Tobacco company-funded ads aimed at curbing youth smoking do not seem to work, and when directed at parents, such ads may actually increase the risk of smoking among teens, according to a study published online Oct. 31 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Melanie Wakefield, Ph.D., of The Cancer Council Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues compared commercial television data ratings from 75 U.S. media markets with nationally representative school-based survey data gathered from 1999 to 2002.

The researchers found that anti-smoking ads targeted to kids had little beneficial effects on smoking, but anti-smoking ads directed toward their parents actually increased the likelihood of smoking among 10th and 12th graders. Each additional viewing of a parent-targeted ad during the previous four months lowered the teens' perception of smoking-related harm, resulted in stronger approval of smoking, a greater intention to smoke and a greater likelihood of having smoked during the past month.

Possibly due to typical teenage authority issues, "our analysis suggests that tobacco company youth- and parent-targeted smoking prevention advertising campaigns confer no benefit to youths, and especially for older teens, parent-targeted advertising may have harmful relations," the researchers conclude.

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