There is considerable evidence linking exposure to tobacco advertising and promotion with an increased likelihood of smoking amongst young people.[1
] As a result, an increasing number of countries have implemented bans on tobacco advertising, marketing and promotion.[5
] Australia's Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992 and tobacco control legislation in the states and territories has been implemented to prevent most promotion or marketing of tobacco through traditional or 'above-the-line' forms of media (print, radio, television, billboards, and other locations).[6
In New South Wales (NSW), the most populous state of Australia, the Public Health (Tobacco) Act of 2008 introduced new requirements relating to advertising of tobacco products on retail premises, including how tobacco products may be displayed. The new regulations state that tobacco products must be stored out of sight so that they cannot be seen by the public from inside or outside the retail premises. Large retailers (more than 50 employees) went out of sight 1 January 2010 (Phase 1), small retailers (50 or fewer employees) followed from 1 July 2010 (Phase 2) and specialist tobacconists must comply by 1 January 2013 (Phase 3).
Despite the ban on most traditional forms of tobacco advertising and promotion in Australia, the tobacco industry has adapted by diverting resources to non-traditional or 'below-the-line' means of promotion, such as point-of-sale (PoS) displays; portrayal in films or movies; TV programs, magazines and electronic games; internet advertising and events marketing.[7
Large-scale population studies have shown that greater exposure to PoS tobacco displays is associated with an increased likelihood of adolescent smoking.[11
] A recent study in the United Kingdom (UK), for instance, found that both noticing and being attracted to PoS displays were associated with susceptibility to smoking amongst never smokers aged 11 to 16 years.[18
] Furthermore, experimental studies have shown that youth exposed to images of tobacco-saturated PoS displays had stronger perceptions relating to the availability and ease of tobacco purchase and of peer and adult smoking as well as less support for tobacco control policies, compared to youth exposed to images of PoS displays with no tobacco imagery.[19
The appearance of tobacco brands or tobacco related products in cinema films has a long history and is a pervasive form of tobacco promotion.[21
] A recent study from the UK showed that tobacco appeared in 70% of the most popular films from 1989 to 2008.[22
] A number of studies have shown that greater exposure to smoking in films is associated with an increased likelihood of smoking among adolescents and young adults [23
], and that this transcends different cultural contexts.[30
] Evidence as to the extent and effects of youth exposure to media portrayals of smoking has previously come from countries such as the United States (US) and the UK, however, with little research to date on the level and effect of exposure in Australian youth.
The internet may also influence youth tobacco use because it provides potential access to tobacco products, as well as a venue that may stimulate demand through advertising and promotional messages.[31
] In 2005, almost one fifth of adult internet users in the US recalled seeing tobacco products advertised online, with young adults being the most likely group to recall such advertising.[32
] Newly emerging forms of marketing include viral marketing through social networking sites in which tobacco company names, logos and images can be prominently displayed and rapidly disseminated amongst users of the sites.[33
] This type of marketing, though aimed primarily at young adults, is also likely to influence younger teenagers.[6
Research investigating online exposure to tobacco promotion has largely focused on adults [32
], with little or no research to date focusing on adolescent exposure, despite the wide-spread use of the internet in this age group.[33
It is important to assess exposure among adolescents and young adults to non-traditional or below-the-line means of tobacco promotion, given this may be undermining tobacco control efforts and diminishing the potential to further prevent uptake or reduce smoking in this group of young people.
This study aims to identify (1) the degree to which NSW adolescents (12-17 years of age) and young adults (18-24 years of age) have been exposed to tobacco promotion at the PoS, on the internet, in entertainment media, and at entertainment venues; and (2) to profile the characteristics of adolescents and young adults most at risk of exposure to these types of tobacco promotion.