Nov. 25, 1998 Writer: Kristen Vecellio
Source: Mary Ann Ferguson, (352) 392-6660
GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- New research from the University of Florida shows less than one-third of those who know about the state's new Truth youth anti-smoking campaign think it will cause youth smoking to decline. The university hopes its research results will help the state combat youth smoking more effectively.
Funding for the study came from $286,672 the university's Communication Research Center received as part of the $11.3 billion tobacco settlement from the Department of Health to help the state combat youth smoking through a three-pronged evaluation of the state's smoking habits and tobacco-promotion activities.
"We're very interested in what's going on in retail sales of tobacco, from stores and pricing strategy to targeting of ethnic groups,"said Mary Ann Ferguson, assistant dean for research at UF's College of Journalism and Communications and study director.
The first of the three evaluations included a report of Citizen's Opinions About Tobacco: Florida's Truth Tracking Survey. The three surveys tracked public attitudes on the tobacco industry and the Truth youth anti-smoking campaign.
The June survey found only 23 percent of adult Floridians smoke, but 53 percent have smoked at least five packs of cigarettes in a lifetime.
A majority, 58 percent, of the respondents felt tobacco companies have tried to mislead youth to get them to purchase their product, and three-fourths of the respondents agreed that "in spite of what they say, tobacco companies use advertising to attract young people."
The same survey also measured awareness of the new Truth anti-smoking campaign targeted at youth. Forty-four percent of the survey respondents were aware of the campaign and 63 percent of those respondents like the campaign in general with 73 percent of those same respondents liking the intent and tone of the campaign.
The second prong of the evaluation targeted tobacco sponsorship of events that attract school-age children. Six counties -- Duval, Gadsden, Miami-Dade, Hendry, Brevard and Citrus -- were chosen based on the demographics of their school districts: either rural or urban black, white or Hispanic.
Researchers monitored the prevalence and availability of tobacco at 174 events in these counties. The events included motor sports, music festivals, fairs and sporting events; events held at sports bars were most likely to have tobacco present.
Although only 24 events had tobacco products for sale, 62.5 percent of those events did not have readily observed regulatory or warning signs regarding tobacco sales to minors, as required by state law.
Hendry and Citrus school districts, classified as rural Hispanic and rural white districts, respectively, had the largest percentage of events where tobacco was present. Urban black Duval and urban Hispanic Miami-Dade had the smallest percentage.
The final prong of the research took a look at tobacco advertising patterns in five types of Florida stores: gas station/convenience stores, convenience stores, drug stores, grocery stores and gas stations. Each of the 303 stores surveyed was analyzed for the presence of exterior and interior advertisements and themes of the marketing.
Ferguson said point-of-purchase campaigns by tobacco companies were pervasive in Florida. She said researchers looked for product placement, appeal of ads, fliers, handouts and regulatory and warning signs.
"It's quite informative to actually visit these stores," she said. "Ads covered whole buildings, fences, gas pumps, sidewalks and shopping baskets."
In 20 percent of the stores, researchers did not see regulatory signs, and signs regarding smoking risks were found in only 40 percent of the stores.
Ferguson said these study results have been presented to the Florida Pilot Program on Tobacco Control so they can re-evaluate their youth anti-smoking campaigns and mold them to combat tobacco advertising even better.
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