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Teen Exposure to Tobacco-Related Content on Web Analyzed

Real-world study shows low volume of exposure, high concentration of content on social sites

MONDAY, July 20 (HealthDay News) -- Adolescents who surf the Internet are exposed to a very small volume of tobacco-related content, and not all of the exposure is pro-tobacco, according to a study published online July 20 in Pediatrics.

Brian P. Jenssen, of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Elk Grove Village, Ill., and colleagues recruited 346 adolescents ages 14 to 17 years and used Internet-tracking software on the subjects' home computers to track all Web pages viewed during a 30-day period.

The researchers identified tobacco or smoking content in only 8,702 (0.72 percent) of the 1.2 million Web pages. Of these, 1,916 had a pro-tobacco message, 1,572 had an anti-tobacco message, and the remaining messages were unclear. They also found that 4,612 (53 percent) of tobacco-related pages were on social networking sites.

"Although the amount of Internet tobacco content seems limited, understanding the origin of this content is important for youth tobacco control efforts. The Framework Convention for Tobacco control stipulates restricting or banning tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship," the authors conclude. "Whether the profile of an adolescent who smokes represents advertising is not clear. A full understanding of the influence of Internet tobacco content requires an appreciation of the impact of smoking status within social networking sites on social norms with respect to tobacco."

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