Susceptibility of Young People to Smoking
Source: Correlation Between Receptivity to Tobacco Marketing and
Susceptibility to Smoking in Young People
The 1998 study published in Tobacco Control examined a correlation between receptivity to tobacco marketing and susceptibility to smoking in young people. In a study of seventh graders, it was found that 70 percent proved receptive to promotional and marketing initiatives launched by tobacco companies; as well, many of these young people had a parent or some adult role model in their lives that habitually used tobacco. But the crux of the study was that those exhibiting a desire for “tobacco promotional items” were more likely to prove susceptible to smoking (Feighery, Borzekowski, Schooler and Flora, 1998). Ultimately, it was revealed that tobacco companies “are extremely effective in capturing teenagers’ attention and increasing desire for their promotional items” (1998). What is more, tobacco product manufacturers have proven adaptable to stricter advertising restrictions, instead simply taking their message directly to the source, embedding marketing materials in convenience stores and other locations where teenagers are apt to spend time.
Nevertheless, there are limitations to the study’s conclusions. Data indicates that though there is a tie between receptivity and susceptibility, as previously mentioned, the possibility exists that a susceptibility to tobacco may actually precede the receptivity to tobacco advertising/marketing. In this light, it is important that further data be gathered and extrapolated in order to help determine causality. In practical terms, the 1998 study has helped to elicit a discussion of how to address with young people the subject of tobacco company exploitation. Also, and more importantly, it provides a strong basis for further regulation of the way in which tobacco products are marketed to young people.
Synthesis of Highlighted Paragraphs
Tobacco companies have employed remarkably subtle messaging in exploiting young people. This powerful tactic plays on the young person’s sense of identity. Boys, for whom acting masculine is a product of peer pressure, are typically approached with promotional items (such as Marlboro “swag”) that speak to that desire. For girls, for whom appearance is tied directly to their sense of self, identifying with brands like Virginia Slims may come quite easy. As such, tobacco companies promotional products are “replete with messages and images that reflect the qualities teenagers value, such as popularity, independence, sexiness, and ‘coolness’” (Feighery, Borzekowski, Schooler and Flora, 1998). The inference, which is unmistakable, is that the teenager can somehow absorb and portray these qualities by using the company’s products. It is a powerful tactic because “Clothing and other promotional items are intended to serve as a clear link between ‘me’ and the role ‘I’ wish to play” (Feighery, et al, 1998).
Ultimately, the aim of tobacco company marketing is to attach young people to brands and thereby create an ongoing source of revenue. This is accomplished by what can only be described as a “psychological process of product attachment, the outcome of which may increase their susceptibility to smoking” (Feighery, et al, 1998). The more a young person can identify with a particular brand image, the greater the likelihood their susceptibility to smoking will manifest itself in ways that benefit the tobacco manufacturer. It is for this reason that tobacco companies invest so heavily in reaching young people, with annual multi-billion dollar marketing expenditures. Restrictions on tobacco advertising have forced tobacco manufacturers to use their considerable resources to develop new and sophisticated means to reach and influence young people psychologically.
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