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Prev Sci. 2012 Feb;13(1):55-63. doi: 10.1007/s11121-011-0244-3.

Moderation of the association between media exposure and youth smoking onset: race/ethnicity, and parent smoking.

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Department of Pediatrics, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH, USA.


This study of youth smoking onset aims to replicate previously published media moderation effects for race/ethnicity in a national longitudinal multiethnic sample of U.S. adolescents. Previous research has demonstrated that associations between media and smoking during adolescence are greater for Whites than Hispanics or Blacks, and for youth living in non-smoking families. In this study, changes in smoking status over 24 months were assessed among 4,511 baseline never-smokers. The incidence of smoking onset was 14.3% by 24 months with no differences by race/ethnicity. Blacks had higher exposure to movie smoking and overall television viewing compared with Whites and Hispanics. Whites responded to movie smoking regardless of parent smoking but more strongly if their parents were non-smokers. In contrast, Black adolescents showed little behavioral response to any media, regardless of parent smoking. Hispanic adolescents responded only to TV viewing and only when their parents did not smoke. In an analysis assessing the influence of the race of smoking characters on smoking behavior of White and Black adolescents, Whites responded to both White and Black movie character smoking, whereas Blacks responded only to smoking by Black movie characters. Taken as a whole, the findings replicate and extend previous findings, suggesting media factors are more influential among adolescents at low to moderate overall risk for smoking. We draw analogies between these low-moderate risk adolescents and "swing voters" in national elections, suggesting that media effects are more apt to influence an adolescent in the middle of the risk spectrum, compared with his peers at either end of it.

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