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New Study Shows That Global Tobacco Marketing Reaches 5- and 6 Year Olds


A new study from the Institute for Global Tobacco Control at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shows the wide reach of global tobacco marketing. The study, led by Dina Borzekowski, EdD, a public health professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, and an adjunct professor at the Bloomberg School, shows that the majority of very young children from certain low- and middle-income countries are familiar with cigarette brands—close to 68 percent of the 5- and 6 year olds were able to identify at least one cigarette logo. This study’s findings suggest that more effective measures are needed to restrict tobacco marketing.  The article, titled “International Reach of Tobacco Marketing among Young Children” published in the October issue of Pediatrics.

Previous research has shown that exposure to, interest in, and positive attitudes about pro-tobacco marketing and media messages are positively associated with youth liking smoking, early initiation, and increased use.  Most of these studies, however, have worked with older children from the United States and other high-income countries.

This new study occurred in Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Russia. Researchers worked one-on-one with 5- and 6 year olds. The children played a game where they had to match logos with pictures of products, including eight logos for cigarette brands.

While two-thirds of the overall sample could identify at least one brand, the highest awareness was in China. There, 85.9 percent could identify at least one cigarette brand and, on average, the Chinese children could identify 3.8 brands. Overall, children who lived in households with a tobacco user were more likely to be able to identify at least one brand, but this was not consistent across countries studied. According to Borzekowski, “One interesting finding was that in China, India and Nigeria, living with a tobacco user was not significantly associated with awareness, suggesting that children were learning about tobacco brands outside of the household through environmental and media messages.” Borzekowski added that she is extremely proud of how this study was conducted. “Great efforts were made to work well with in-country researcher teams. The study used culturally sensitive and developmentally appropriate methods,” she said.

Joanna Cohen, PhD, co-author of the study and director of the Institute for Global Tobacco Control at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, remarked, “Evidence-based strategies exist to reduce the ability of tobacco companies to market their products to children, such as implementing and enforcing bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.  Putting large picture warnings on the front and back of cigarette packs and requiring plain and standardized packaging, as Australia has done, also helps to reduce the attractiveness of cigarette packs among young children.” This study was supported by a grant from the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  The Institute for Global Tobacco Control (IGTC) has as its mission to prevent death and disease from tobacco products by generating evidence to support effective tobacco control interventions. Operating within the three-pillar framework of knowledge generation, synthesis and translation, evaluation and surveillance, and capacity building, IGTC’s goal is to reduce tobacco use globally.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health media contact: Tim Parsons at 410-955-7619 or