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Tob Induc Dis. 2013 Aug 17;11(1):17. doi: 10.1186/1617-9625-11-17.

Older smokers could be the strongest supporters for U.S. government regulation of tobacco: a focus group study.

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Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, Box 0612, San Francisco, CA, USA.



Targeting of marginalized groups with aggressive tobacco marketing has been identified as exacerbating health disparities. However, interpretation of such targeting by groups varies, from surprise and outrage to regarding such marketing as evidence of social legitimacy. We sought to learn how an often-overlooked marginalized group, older adults, would respond to industry documents offering evidence of tobacco company target marketing.


We conducted 10 focus groups in California cities with older (≥50 years) smokers and former smokers. A set of previously-undisclosed tobacco industry documents related to target marketing was shown to the group in sequence. Audiotaped discussions were transcribed and data analyzed using qualitative approaches.


Responses to evidence of tobacco industry targeting varied, with some regarding it as exploitive and others as normal business practice. However, in most groups, discussions turned to government's failure to protect the public-even though government action /inaction was not prompted nor addressed in the discussion documents.


Given the Food and Drug Administration's new authority to regulate tobacco products, these findings suggest that some of the tobacco industry's "best customers" (older, established smokers and ex-smokers) may be strong supporters of government regulation of tobacco.

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