Study: Tobacco Firms Encourage College Smoking
A new study finds that tobacco companies are encouraging college students to start smoking by sponsoring parties and handing out free cigarettes, according to the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).
For the HSPH College Alcohol Study (CAS), a random sample of 10,904 students enrolled in 119 of the country's four-year colleges and universities were taken. Students at all but one college reported attending a tobacco-industry sponsored social event on or off campus in 2001. Free cigarettes were distributed at events held at bars, clubs, and on-campus college parties.
Nancy Rigotti, M.D., director of the Tobacco Research and Treatment Center of Massachusetts General Hospital, said the students who attended the tobacco promotions were more likely to be current smokers, and that the events appeared to encourage students to start smoking. Of the 78 percent of students who did not smoke regularly before age 19, the current smoking prevalence rate was 23.7 percent among those who had attended a promotional event, compared with 11.8 percent among those who had not.
"By distributing cigarettes and sponsoring these events in bars and on college campuses, the tobacco industry promotes the idea that cigarettes are an essential part of young adults' social lives," said Rigotti, who led the study.
Study author Henry Wechsler, Ph.D., director of the HSPH College Alcohol Study, added that, "These findings should serve as a wake-up call to college and university administrators. The evidence that these events may influence a non-smoking young person's decision to start smoking is a good reason they should be alert to tobacco-industry sponsorship of these events and take appropriate action on their campuses."
The study's findings are published in the January 2005 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.