How Does Exposure to Cigarette Advertising Contribute to Smoking in Adolescents?

The Role of the Developing Self-Concept and Identification with Advertising Models

Published In: Addictive Behaviors, v. 34, no. 11, Nov. 2009, p. 932-937

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2008

by William G. Shadel, Shannah Tharp-Gilliam, Craig S. Fryer

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Increased exposure to cigarette advertisements is associated with increases in adolescent smoking but the reasons for this association are not well established. This study evaluated whether self-concept development (operationalized as level of self-conflict) and identifying with the models used in cigarette print advertising contributed to smoking intentions among adolescents. Ninety-five adolescents (ages 11-17) participated in this two session study. In session 1, they rated the extent to which they identified with the models used in 10 current cigarette print ads (the models were isolated digitally from the cigarette advertisements) and their level of self-conflict was assessed. In session 2, participants viewed each of the 10 cigarette advertisements from which the models were drawn and rated their intentions to smoke following exposure to each ad. Model identification was associated with similar levels of post ad exposure smoking intentions for both younger and older adolescents when they also exhibited no self-conflict. A contrasting set of findings emerged for younger and older adolescents when they exhibited high levels of self-conflict: Young adolescents who strongly identified with the models used in cigarette advertisements had higher post ad exposure smoking intentions compared to younger adolescents who weakly identified with the models used in the advertisements; in contrast, older adolescents who weakly identified with the models used in cigarette advertisements had stronger post ad exposure smoking intentions compared to older adolescents who strongly identified with the models used in the advertisements. These results point to the importance of examining developmentally-relevant moderators for the effects of cigarette advertising exposure.

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