When First Graders Know Marlboro

Cigarette brand recognition among children found to be high

(RxWiki News) It was only a few decades ago that kids could recognize Joe Camel as easily as they recognized Mickey Mouse. Young children's ability to recognize cigarette brands appears to be global.

A recent study found that more than half of young children in six different countries recognized at least one of eight cigarette brands.

The children surveyed were 5 and 6 years old. Children living with a smoker were more likely to recognize brands.

The authors noted that children's awareness of tobacco marketing has been linked to a higher likelihood of their starting to smoke.

"Keep adult products out of children's sight."

The study, led by Dina Borzekowski, EdD, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, looked at how well children across the world recognized tobacco brands.

The researchers presented data from 2,423 children, aged 5 and 6, in six different low- and middle-income countries: Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Russia.

The children were given tasks to match logos of different commercial brand logos with products. The logos they were provided included eight cigarette brand logos.

The researchers analyzed the results in terms of the children's ages, gender and location.

The researchers also looked at whether the children lived with a smoker in the household and whether they knew which media characters were associated with certain cigarette brand logos.

Across the entire group, 68 percent of the children identified at least one cigarette brand logo.

The country with the highest level of recognition was China, where 86 percent of the children identified at least one cigarette brand logo.

Among the Chinese children surveyed, 71 percent of them lived with a smoker, and 12 percent of them had a parent who smoked.

Russian children had the lowest level of recognition; 50 percent of the children recognized at least one cigarette brand.

In Russia, 46 percent of the children lived with a smoker, and 42 percent of them had a parent who smoked.

Unsurprisingly, children who lived with a smoker were about twice as likely to recognize the brands than children who didn't live with a smoker.

In addition, the older children were a little more likely to recognize cigarette brands than the younger children.

"Although many factors are associated with tobacco use, research shows that exposure to, interest in, and positive attitudes about pro-tobacco marketing and media messages are associated with increased odds of youth liking smoking, early initiation and increased use," the researchers wrote.

"Studies conducted around the world have found that youth with high exposure and awareness levels to pro-tobacco messaging, whether through advertising, point-of-sale displays, depictions in movies or promotional materials, are more likely to smoke," they wrote.

The study was published September 30 in the journal Pediatrics.

The research was funded by the Institute for Global Tobacco Control and the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
September 29, 2013