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Teenage Smokers Prefer 2 Major Brands

CDC Says Marlboro and Newport Are Top Choices of Young Cigarette Smokers
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb.12, 2009 -- Teenage smokers prefer the Marlboro and Newport brands by hefty margins, the CDC says.

Data analyzed from the 2004 and 2006 National Youth Tobacco Survey show that 43.3% of established smokers in middle school and 52.3% in high school prefer Marlboro. Newport came in second, favored by 26.4% of smokers in middle school and 21.4% of smokers in high school.

The findings are reported in the Feb. 13 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the CDC.

In each survey year of the analysis, about 27,000 students completed questionnaires that asked how many cigarettes they had smoked in their lifetime and if they had smoked in the past month. An established smoker was defined as someone who reported smoking at least 25 cigarettes in his or her life or had smoked at least one cigarette in the previous month.

Brand preference differed by sex among middle schoolers; 49.6% of girls preferred Marlboro, compared with 37.6% of boys. For high school smokers, 54.5% of girls used Marlboro compared to 50.2% of boys.

Most African-American student smokers used Newport, a mentholated brand.

Since the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, which forbids tobacco advertising targeting people under 18, ad expenditures for cigarettes in magazines with more than 15% youth readership have decreased.

But alternative publicity methods, including sponsorship of public entertainment, sample distribution, and point-of-sale promotion are likely being used to go after young people, the CDC says.

Though self-reported youth exposure to pro-tobacco messages declined in the 2000-2004 period in all media except the Internet, most youngsters are still getting pro-tobacco messages.

In 2004, the CDC says 81% of young people saw smoking on television or in the movies, 85% in tobacco ads in stores, 50% in ads in newspapers and magazines, and 33% on the Internet.

"The National Cancer Institute and the Institute of Medicine have recommended that stronger and more comprehensive regulations are needed to protect youth from exposure to all forms of advertising and promotional activities by tobacco companies," the CDC report says.

Awareness of brand preferences provides clues about how to counter pro-smoking messages and perhaps reduce the number of youngsters who start smoking, the CDC says, adding that raising prices would help.

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