Teen-agers' sensitivity to advertising is triple that of adult smokers, said study author Richard W. Pollary, a professor of advertising at the University of British Columbia.
An increase in cigarette advertising has a much more pronounced effect on underage youth than on the adult smoking population, he said, citing advertising of Philip Morris USA for Marlboro, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. for Camel and Lorillard for Newport, among other brands.
LINK TO BEHAVIOR
"Whether or not intended, cigarette advertising is significantly related to adolescent smoking behavior," the study said. "Because advertising influences the use of cigarettes among a consumer group to whom selling cigarettes is illegal, the government has a legitimate interest in regulating cigarette advertising."
The study urged government intervention on this issue.
Mr. Pollary, appearing at a news conference last week set up by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said that while the study didn't directly address why people smoke, the findings about advertising's effect on underage smokers warrant the current attempts by the Food & Drug Administration to restrict advertising.
CHALLENGING THE STUDY
Advertising groups and the tobacco industry quickly challenged the study, with the Tobacco Institute saying Mr. Pollary had overlooked clear evidence that most underage smokers' brand choice is based simply on what brand a friend gives them, and isn't tied directly to advertising.
Brand preference is irrelevant to the current debate over tobacco advertising, according to Hal Shoup, exec VP for the American Association of Advertising Agencies, speaking for the Freedom to Advertise Coalition.
"This study does not involve the critical issue of why youths start to smoke," Mr. Shoup said. "This is the core issue at the heart of the debate over the wisdom of the FDA's proposed regulations and this study has nothing to say about it."