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Contact:
David March, PENN Medicine, (215) 615-3353, david.march@uphs.upenn.edu
Megan Kasimatis, Tobacco Use Research Center, (215) 746-6828, mkasimat@mail.med.upenn.edu


October 13, 2003

Novelty-Seeking Teens More Receptive to Tobacco Advertising, New Study Shows

(Philadelphia, PA)-- Adolescents who demonstrate impulsive and risk-taking behavior and an increased need for stimulation, a personality trait known as “novelty-seeking,” are more receptive to tobacco advertising and are at high risk for smoking initiation according to a study by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Georgetown University. Research results appear in the October issue of Health Communication.

“To better understand the influence of tobacco advertising on youth, this study sought to identify subgroups of adolescents who have been most receptive to tobacco advertising and promotional activities,” said lead author Janet Audrain, PhD, member of the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Penn’s School of Medicine. “While previous research has shown that receptivity to tobacco advertising is associated with higher levels of smoking among adolescents, few studies have examined how variability in personality traits among adolescents may make certain teens more receptive to tobacco advertising.”

Audrain led a research team that interviewed 1,071 ninth-grade adolescents at five public high schools. These students completed a questionnaire that assessed smoking habits, exposure to other smokers, receptivity to tobacco advertising, and the novelty-seeking personality trait.

The researchers determined the level of receptivity to tobacco advertising by measuring whether adolescents could name an often-advertised cigarette brand, had a favorite tobacco advertisement, and if they possessed or were willing to use a tobacco industry promotional item. Novelty-seeking was measured by the adolescents’ responses to questions regarding impulsive and sensation-seeking behaviors.

Forty-four percent of the adolescents had moderate to high levels of receptivity. The researchers found that adolescents in this group were more likely to have tried smoking and to be higher in the novelty-seeking trait. Novelty-seeking adolescents, both smokers and non-smokers, were twice as likely to be receptive to tobacco advertising. As a result of this finding researchers believe that novelty-seeking may be a key factor in receptivity to tobacco advertising regardless of smoking status and may put teens with this trait at a higher risk for smoking initiation.

“The heightened receptivity to tobacco advertising among youth high in novelty-seeking may be attributable to their greater need for stimulation and rewarding experiences,” said Audrain. “Tobacco industry promotional campaigns, which often highlight stimulating activities and adventurous behavior, appear to be designed to appeal to this feature of novelty-seeking youth.”

This study indicates that in order to counter the influence of tobacco-industry advertising, anti- tobacco advertising campaigns may need to target youth high in novelty seeking. Anti-tobacco advertising directed at novelty-seeking adolescents should be dramatic as well as physically and emotionally intense as these adolescents may have stronger reactions to messages containing high levels of stimulation.

This research, which appears in Health Communication in an article titled “Which adolescents are most receptive to tobacco industry marketing? Implications for counter-advertising campaigns,” is part of a four-year investigation Audrain and her colleagues are conducting to explore the social, psychological and genetic factors that influence adolescents’ decisions about smoking.

This research was funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Drug Abuse and was conducted by the University of Pennsylvania/Georgetown University Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center.

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The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania was established in 1973 as a center of excellence in cancer research, patient care, education and outreach. Today, the Abramson Cancer Center ranks as one of the nation’s best in cancer care, according to US News and World Report, and is one of the top five in National Cancer Institute (NCI) funding. It is one of only 39 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Home to one of the largest clinical and research programs in the world, the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania has 275 active cancer researchers and 250 Penn physicians involved in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

PENN Medicine is a $2.2 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System (created in 1993 as the nation's first integrated academic health system).

Penn's School of Medicine is ranked #2 in the nation for receipt of NIH research funds; and ranked #4 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report's most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

Penn Health System consists of four hospitals (including its flagship Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, consistently rated one of the nation's "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report), a faculty practice plan, a primary-care provider network, three multispecialty satellite facilities, and home health care and hospice.


Release available online at http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/oct03/novelty.htm