A new study on cigarette advertising shows that ads featuring young adult models increased a young person’s intent to smoke.
During the study, Cornelia Pechmann and her colleagues conducted a series of experiments which involved giving a group of adolescents professionally produced mock magazines, then having them answer questions about the magazine’s content. The line of questioning included personal inquiries about the subjects’ intent to smoke in the future. The magazines included different advertisements to test the research hypotheses.
Results of the first experiment showed that advertisements featuring young (17-year-old) cigarette models actually decreased the adolescents’ intent to smoke. When the ads featured young adult models (25 years old), the adolescents’ intent to smoke increased. Interestingly enough, when mid-aged adult models (45 years old) were used, the advertisements had no effect on the subject group’s intent to smoke.
“What we found in the second experiment illustrates how adolescents diverge from other adolescents and follow young adults when ads are selling age-restricted products, like cigarettes,” said Pechmann. “This same result was not true for unrestricted products, like clothing. In fact, when the product was unrestricted, adolescents conformed to the behavior of other adolescents rather than young adults.”