OBJECTIVE:

To test the specificity of the association between cigarette advertising and adolescent smoking initiation.

METHODS:

A longitudinal survey of 2102 adolescents, aged 10 to 17 years at baseline, who never smoked was conducted by using masked images of 6 cigarette advertisements and 8 other commercial products with all brand information digitally removed. The exposure variable was a combination of contact frequency and cued recall of brands for cigarette and other advertisements. Multilevel mixed-effects Poisson regressions were used to assess smoking initiation 9 months after the baseline assessment as a function of cigarette-advertisement exposure, other advertisement exposure, and baseline covariates.

RESULTS:

Thirteen percent (n = 277) of students initiated smoking during the observation period. Although the incidence of trying smoking was associated with increased exposure to cigarette advertisements (10% in the low, 12% in the medium, and 19% in the high cigarette-advertisement exposure tertile initiated smoking), exposure to other advertisements did not predict smoking initiation. Compared with low exposure to cigarette advertisements, high exposure remained a significant predictor of adolescent smoking initiation after controlling for baseline covariates (adjusted relative risk: 1.46 [95% confidence interval: 1.08–1.97]; P < .05).

CONCLUSIONS:

Our results support the notion of a content-related effect of cigarette advertisements and underlines the specificity of the relationship between tobacco marketing and teen smoking; exposure to cigarette advertisements, but not other advertisements, is associated with smoking initiation.

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