A new study has suggested that exposure to a single pro-smoking media message increases college-aged students' risk of using tobacco for seven days.
Steven Martino, a study co-author and a psychologist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization, said that they were surprised how long the influence of pro-smoking messages lasted, asserting that the results suggest that positive media messages about smoking are likely to influence behavior even if opportunities to smoke occur infrequently.
The study involved 134 college students in Pittsburgh aged 18 to 24 who were given hand-held devices that allowed them to document their exposure to pro-smoking media messages during their normal routine over a three-week period.
Participants included both nonsmokers and those who smoke either regularly or occasionally.
After viewing a pro-smoking advertisement or message, participants reported their smoking intentions and ability to refuse tobacco by answering a series of questions such as, "Do you think you will try a cigarette anytime soon?"
The hand-held devices also prompted participants to answer these questions at other times during the day when they were not exposed to pro-smoking messages.
This study design allowed the researchers to see how long the effects of exposure to a pro-smoking message could be detected in participants' responses to the survey questions.
Researchers found that after exposure to a single pro-smoking media message, smoking intentions immediately increased by an average of 22 percent. Although smoking intentions decreased with each passing day, they remained elevated for a full 7 days.
The study has been published online by the Journal of Adolescent Health. (ANI)