The process and influence of tobacco marketing communications on young people : a qualitative and quantitative study
Attempts to ban tobacco advertising and promotion have always been very controversial. The tobacco industry defends its right to promote a legal product, while others argue that such a dangerous product should not be promoted, particularly where this promotion may encourage smoking amongst young people. In the UK, a tobacco advertising ban has been on the public policy agenda since 1989, and during the period of this thesis, was being actively discussed and progressed by both UK and EU legislators. This study addressed this controversy and was conducted to examine the extent to which tobacco marketing communications was related to youth smoking behaviour and how this process occurred. The work addressed two important gaps in the literature: 1) It examined the entire range of marketing communications devices used by the tobacco industry, including advertising, sponsorship, loyalty schemes, direct mail, sales promotions, point of sale materials, product placement, the internet and brand-stretching. 2) It was based on contemporary models of media/marketing effects which theorise that effects are not necessarily direct or predictable, and may operate through social or wider cultural influences. The research involved two discrete stages of research. First, focus groups were conducted with young people to examine how they engaged with tobacco marketing communications. As a result, a theoretical framework explaining the relationship between youth smoking and tobacco marketing communications was developed. This hypothesised that current smoking was correlated with tobacco marketing communications, perceptions of brands and smoking beliefs. Second, a quantitative survey was conducted to test this model. It was administered to 29 fifteen year olds, using a combination of interviewer administered and self-completion questionnaires. Bivariate and multi-variate analysis indicated that youth smoking was correlated with contact with tobacco marketing, as were certain aspects of brand perception and smoking beliefs. The implications of these findings for theory, research practice and public policy are discussed.