Smoking Advertising and Adolescent Behaviour

With the increase in smoking habits of individuals, especially adolescents, it becomes crucial to raise questions about why this is becoming an easy release of stress. The way people fall back on smoking as a coping mechanism is alarming and should necessitate and demand changes after the causes have been exacted.

Smoking Advertising and Adolescent Behaviour

According to tobacco industry representatives, the goal of advertisement and marketing for tobacco is to grow a brand's customer base among current smokers rather than to attract new users. They vehemently assert that the target audience for their marketing efforts is not the youth market. Since few people start smoking as adults, the public health congregation has repeatedly demanded that tobacco companies intentionally market to youths. The tobacco industry's advertising and marketing techniques are pretty successful and are to blame for the rise in the rate at which adolescents begin smoking.

Positive Imagery of Smoking and Smokers

Young people as early as 12 comprehend and may mimic the key smoking advertising themes, such as prosperity, love, and autonomy. One group of teenagers develops the stereotype that smoking is associated with becoming cool or machismo ("brave" or "tough") and social ("being popular" or "likes dating"). This occurs as a result of repeated exposure to advertising efforts.

When an adolescent's genuine or intended self-image was more closely connected with the stereotypical picture of a smoker, over a year, the juvenile was almost double as likely to start smoking as opposed to the youngster whose identity was more divergent. In a related study, teenagers who identified more strongly with the stereotype of the smoker were more inclined to smoke themselves and to identify their "perfect date" as smokers; if they did not smoke, they were more inclined to claim they planned to start smoking.

Perception of Smoking as Normative

Smoking is perceived to be more common than it is when people are exposed to cigarette advertising regularly. Teenagers essentially believe that the prevalence of cigarette marketing and advertising is a reliable indicator of the number of smokers. This viewpoint is supported by research indicating that adolescents exposed to more periodical cigarette advertisements believe cigarette smoking is more common. In a related study, teenagers who identified more strongly with the stereotype of the smoker were more inclined to smoke themselves and to identify their "perfect date" as smokers; if they did not smoke, they were more inclined to claim they planned to start smoking.

"Friendly Familiarity" With Tobacco and Smoking and the "Truth Effect"

Numerous cigarette companies' names and logos have become well-known to young people thanks to extensive advertising efforts that have run for many years. Recognition tests among 8 to 13-year-olds in Turkey and Hong Kong demonstrate the enormous global advertising and marketing for American cigarettes. When the Marlboro red chevron design was placed among five other emblems denoting other product categories in Hong Kong, 76% of the kids recognized the chevron as denoting a particular cigarette brand. 95% of the kids correctly identified the Marlboro name when written in Chinese characters and shown to them separately.

Comparable results were seen in Turkey, where the logos and brand awareness ratings for Camel and Marlboro were 84% and 91%, respectively. Constant advertising causes those who need to become more familiar with brand names.

Advertising Primes Adolescents, Facilitating Interpersonal Influence

Tobacco advertising can sensitize, influence, or "prime" how adolescents regard their peers who smoke by glamorizing tobacco use and tobacco smokers. Individuals subjected to tobacco advertising tend to associate their smoking peers with the glamorized characteristics that, absent the promotion, would be considered normal. The final phase of this procedure is when those subjected to tobacco advertising start to look up to their peers and are persuaded to smoke by them.

However, it has been noted that, to a degree, studies show a connection between smoking and having friends who smoke; this is due to peer choice rather than social pressure. Teens who are vulnerable scan their environment like radar and pick out friends they want to "hang out" with. As previously mentioned, a sizable portion of these youngsters is drawn to their peers who smoke because of the pictures that tobacco advertising has built in their minds. The "multi-step" flow of influence is a simple way to represent how interpersonal influence, advertising, and promotion interact with youngsters.

Enabling Conditions for Adolescents

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Youngsters desire and require that they detach from their families and form their identities as an inevitable maturing process, even as they seek acceptance from their colleagues. One facet of individuation is the teenager's motivation to assume increased responsibility for his or her activities and make judgment calls. These businesses now know this mechanism and can take advantage of it thanks to research supported by cigarette companies. According to Canadian industry research, young male smokers are going through a phase where they are looking for ways to exhibit their independence and uniqueness. Smoking, they say, resonates with their defiant character.

Growing Up

A top official from Philip Morris claims that 16 to 20-year-olds start smoking for psychosocial concerns in a presentation to the company's board of directors. Smoking is a symbolic act that denotes adulthood. The cigarette companies know that a 17-year-old would never choose to be 21 and a 15-year-old would never be 18. The power of utilizing youthful supermodels in cigarette advertisements comes from the fact that this dynamic cannot be replicated by "hanging out" with other 15-year-olds.

Teenagers admire and strive to be like the young visual appeal in cigarette advertisements. While cigarette advertisers are prohibited by their own rule from utilizing women who are 25 or less, research has shown that a sizable section of the population perceives the models they use to be more youthful than that. Furthermore, Philip Morris claims that the company "does not want kids to smoke" while also portraying smoking as a "forbidden fruit" and asserting that "we feel smoking is an informed choice" might quickly pique an adolescent's interest in the habit.

Acceptance by Peers

Social agents are likely to act as a middleman between advertising effects. Teenagers' environments depend heavily on their peers. Peers collectively feel the effects of their culture, especially the extensive cigarette promotion. People get together to share and affirm their shared knowledge of their surroundings and, in doing so, to forge a sense of shared purpose for themselves. Cigarettes and smoking comprise this shared meaning, strengthening the bonds between group members and dividing them from others who do not partake in this activity, such as their parents.

Teenagers generally have low self-worth and, thus, low self-confidence. They feel like they are on stage, and everyone watches everything they do. In this comparatively precarious position, individuals are receptive to suggestions for "props" that will assist them in projecting the appropriate image to be embraced by others. They seek the support and approval of peers. By successfully using positive images to associate with nicotine products in their advertising, tobacco companies have recognized the vulnerabilities of adolescents and can give young people some of these crutches.

Research on Adolescents

While virtually all young people agree that smoking a pack a day will eventually affect one's health, 40% of smokers say that "...the next cigarette...will probably not cause any harm." Half of the individuals who smoke feel that "harmful consequences of smoking rarely arise until a person has smoked continuously for several years." These perspectives are likely to encourage teenagers to begin smoking. Similarly, teenage smoking initiation is promoted by their failure to recognize the difficulty smokers face in quitting once they have begun. More than half (56%) of young smokers say they will "probably" or "definitely" stop smoking in 5 years. However, 5-6 years later, more than two-thirds (68%) were still smoking, with the great majority (87%) at the same or higher level

The relatively high proportion of ongoing smoking is not due to a lack of effort on the part of the young to quit. In a national poll, over three-quarters (74%) of 12- to 18-year-old smokers said they had seriously considered quitting, and nearly half (49%) said they had tried to quit during the preceding six months. A comparative study based on a 1995 follow-up poll yielded similar results more recently. Almost two-thirds (63%) of those who had been daily smokers in the twelfth grade were still daily smokers 7 to 9 years later, whereas, in high school, just 3% of them had imagined they would 'certainly' be smoking five years hence. Quitting is not a simple feat, even at this young age. Females might get addicted to nicotine within weeks, and boys within months.

To summarise, our research implies that teenagers perceive minimal harm from smoking in the immediate future and underestimate the difficulties they will face in quitting. As a result, they are a rather sensitive audience. Unsurprisingly, smokers claim that they began smoking throughout their adolescence. Over 9 in 10 adults (89%) aged 30-39 who smoke say they started before 18; more than 6 in 10 (62%) started before 16. By 18, more than half (53%) had started smoking regularly, and nearly three-quarters (77%) had quit by 20. In effect, if a person does not begin smoking as a teenager, he or she is unlikely to begin smoking at all.


Literature indicates that teenagers typically sense little immediate risk from smoking and underestimate the challenges they are bound to encounter in quitting. As a result, they can be thought of as a somewhat weak audience. It comes as no surprise that most smokers say they started while they were teenagers. In other words, it is improbable that a person will ever start smoking if they do not do it as a teenager. However, it is essential to remember that adolescent smoking is influenced by various circumstances and must thus be closely watched.

Updated on: 31-Mar-2023


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