Stanford University Medical School researchers recently conducted a survey in which they found that point-of-sale tobacco advertising greatly influences teenagers' desire and willingness to smoke. According to the survey, teenagers who frequent establishments where this type of advertising exists are more than twice as likely to try smoking than those who do not visit them.
More than 2,000 teenagers between the ages of 11 and 14 years old participated in the survey, which recently appeared in the journal Pediatrics. Experts believe the study is a major eye-opener into the effects of direct tobacco advertising on young people.
"The tobacco industry argues the purpose of advertising is to encourage smokers to switch brands, but this shows that advertising encourages teenagers to pick up a deadly habit," explained Lisa Henriksen, a senior research scientist at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, and author of the study.
Henriksen also laments the number of cigarette ads present on objects in and around convenience stores located near schools. Trash cans, clocks, floor mats, cardboard displays, and other forms of advertising are all used in stores where many young people shop, and Henriksen and her team believe this type of advertising needs to stop.
For more than a decade, cigarette use among teens has dropped significantly, from 36.4 percent of high school students in 1997, to 19.5 percent of high school students in 2009. But experts are concerned that the rate of decrease is beginning to slow, and that something must be done.
"The train won't continue downhill without further action. Regulating retail marketing would be ideal for smoking prevention," believes Henriksen.
According to Connie Bennett and Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., author of the book Sugar Shock!: How Sweets and Simple Carbs Can Derail Your Life -- and How You Can Get Back on Track, tobacco companies also lure young people into a habit of smoking by adding sugar components to cigarettes to make them more "candylike".
"It's easy to get children to smoke cigarettes because the taste approaches sweetness," it explains.
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