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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tobacco ads encourage smoking among young urban Indians

Tobacco advertising and marketing have been linked to increased tobacco use by urban Indian children as young as 11, according to a study by the University of Texas School of Public Health.

A study by the University of Texas School of Public Health, titled ‘Associations Between Tobacco Marketing and Use Among Urban Youth In India’, says that smoking is becoming increasingly popular among young children in India. The study is published in the May/June issue of the American Journal of Health Behavior.

In an earlier study, in 2004, researchers found that Indian sixth-graders were using three times the amount of tobacco as were eighth-graders. The second study sought to discover the reason for the jump.

“As India becomes more westernised, more teens will use tobacco,” said the study’s principal investigator Cheryl Perry, PhD, professor and regional dean of the University of Texas School of Public Health, Austin Regional Campus. “The sixth-graders as a group are already thinking that smoking is cool while the eighth-graders haven’t been as exposed to the Western message.”

The study, which included 11,642 sixth- and eighth-graders, was produced in collaboration with two Indian organisations, Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth, in Delhi, and the Tamil Nadu Voluntary Health Association in Chennai.

The researchers found that 37% of youth in the study had seen tobacco advertising in more than four places, while 50% had seen advertising in one to four places.

Tobacco use rose with measures of receptivity, including having a favourite tobacco advertisement, believing misleading imagery created by tobacco advertisements, and being willing to use a tobacco promotional item (such as wearing a T-shirt that advertises tobacco).

“The current study is the first in India to demonstrate a strong, dose-response relationship between exposure and receptivity to tobacco advertising and promotions, and tobacco use among Indian youth. These associations clearly suggest a need to strengthen policy and programme-based interventions to reduce tobacco use among youth in India,” said Melissa Stigler, assistant professor at the UT School of Public Health and study co-author, who did much of the ground work in India.

Tobacco advertising was banned in India in 2004, the year the study began. But cigarette companies are coming up with new ways to reach a younger clientele, such as event sponsorship and lifestyle stores that resort to covert advertising. The study details other measures to evade the ban on smoking in public areas, such as air-conditioned mobile smoking lounges.

The researchers found a very strong link between advertising and tobacco use among the youth. “The more exposed the youth were to tobacco advertising, the more likely they were to have ever used or be currently using tobacco,” said Perry.

The study concludes that ‘this association suggests the need to strengthen policy and programme-based interventions in India to reduce the influence of such exposures’.

India’s health minister Anbumani Ramadoss, who has tried to curb cigarette use by, for instance, banning smoking in films, has found little support among the public at large. Yet, new research published in the New England Journal of Medicine’s February 13 issue, predicts that by the year 2010, 1 million deaths per year in India will be the result of smoking.



Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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