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Youth Advocates’ Perceptions of Tobacco Industry Marketing Influences on Adolescent Smoking: Can They See the Signs?

1 Oklahoma State Department of Health, Office of the State Epidemiologist, 1000 NE 10th St, Oklahoma City, OK 73117, USA
2 Oklahoma State Department of Health, Office of the Tribal Liaison, 1000 NE 10th St, Oklahoma City, OK 73117, USA
3 University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Department of Pediatrics, 1100 N. Lindsay, Oklahoma City, OK 73104, USA

Special Issues: Addressing Chronic Disease Prevention and Tobacco Control in the Retail Environment

Point-of-sale (POS) advertising at retail stores is one of the key marketing avenues used by the tobacco industry. The United States Surgeon General urges actions to eliminate POS tobacco advertisements because of their influence on youth smoking. Many youth empowerment programs are implemented to address tobacco industry marketing influences, including POS tobacco advertisements. While youth are asked to take on such collective action, little is known regarding their perceptions and understanding of tobacco industry marketing influences and related advocacy activities. This mixed methods study examined Oklahoma’s tobacco control youth empowerment program members’ perceptions of tobacco industry marketing influences. Four focus groups were held with active program members from rural and urban areas. Overall, the focus group participants viewed the program as purposeful, as an avenue to help others, and as a way to make a difference. Specifically, the older participants (median age = 18 years) identified tobacco industry marketing influences such as POS, movies, and magazine advertisements and reported participating in activities that counter POS tobacco advertisements at retail stores. Likewise younger participants (median age = 16 years), identified similar tobacco industry marketing influences, but also included tobacco use by friends and family as tobacco industry marketing influences. Moreover, the younger participants did not report engaging in activities that addressed POS tobacco advertisements. The study results suggest that the empowerment program should tailor its programming, training, materials, and activities with input from youth of various ages. Thoughtfully developed messages and specific activities can truly empower youth and maximize their contribution as change agents who address POS or other initiatives at the retail environments to prevent chronic diseases.
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