Noncigarette Tobacco Advertising May Be Hazardous to a Teen’s Health | Commentaries

  • Abbreviation:
    PATH
    Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health
  • Cigarette smoking contributes to nearly 1 in 5 deaths in the United States and myriad health problems.1 Among the 16.8% of US adults who currently smoke, nearly 90% began to do so before they were 18 years old.2 At this age, brain development is incomplete, and youth lack full ability to make sound decisions.3 Once they begin to smoke, it can be very difficult to stop.4 Thus, it is critical to minimize prosmoking influences in young lives.

    In “Receptivity to Tobacco Advertising and Susceptibility to Tobacco Products Among US Adolescents,” Pierce et al5 address 1 important influence. Using early data from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study, they provide evidence that moderate to high levels of receptivity to advertising for tobacco products other than cigarettes is associated with susceptibility to cigarette smoking. Pierce et al5 also found that nearly half of 12- to 17-year-old nonsmoking PATH participants were receptive to some form of tobacco advertising; they had “a willingness to be open and responsive to the sponsor’s ideas, impressions, and suggestions.”6

    Policymakers and practitioners should heed these important findings. They suggest that a critical gap in the regulation of cigarette marketing is the relatively weak regulation of advertising for other tobacco products. It may not be enough to regulate advertising for cigarettes if ads for e-cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco also influence youth to smoke cigarettes. Indeed, PATH results raise the possibility that advertising for e-cigarettes, which had been largely absent until very recently, is responsible for the plateau in previously declining percentages of youth smoking combustible cigarettes.7

    Key aspects of the study by Pierce et al5 are exceptionally strong, including the large, nationally representative sample of nonsmoking youth and the incorporation of a near census of tobacco ads in the…

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