Although teens with less authoritative parents are generally more likely to start smoking, they are not as swayed by cigarette advertising and promotions as are their peers raised by more authoritative parents, says the study in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
"It is possible that adolescents whose parents strive to keep them from engaging in risk behaviors, such as smoking, comprise a high-yield market segment for the tobacco industry. If true, it would appear that cigarette advertising and promotion strategies are designed to undermine recommended parenting practices," says John P. Pierce, Ph.D., of the University of California-San Diego.
Parents who are more authoritative are considered to be those who actively involve themselves in their teens' lives, both in listening to the teens and telling them when they did a good job. These parents also generally know where their teens are when they are not at home.
These parenting practices have been shown in previous studies to help children resist risky behaviors, such as smoking. In contrast, less authoritative parents are often emotionally and physically unavailable to their children.
However, promotional marketing strategies that offer customers additional free items with their purchase of cigarettes seem to sway teenagers, circumventing the protective effects of authoritative parenting, the researchers note.
"[The fact] that tobacco-industry marketing activity is growing so rapidly in the area of incentives-to-merchants and retail-value-added strategies must be a cause for concern to the public health community. These marketing actions directly contradict the much-publicized claim that the tobacco industry does not want kids to smoke," they say.
Contact: Nancy Stringer
Center for the Advancement of Health