New Study Looks at How YouTube May Expose Young People to Little Cigars and Cigarillos
WASHINGTON, Oct. 16, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new study published in Tobacco Control shows that little cigars and cigarillos are being promoted on one of the world's most popular video-sharing websites, YouTube. Public health experts at Legacy – the non-profit responsible for the highly acclaimed truth® youth smoking prevention campaign – say that these activities and the messages embedded in the videos have the potential to influence young smokers.
"This study is the first to look at how these products are being depicted online, in a venue that has the potential to reach billions of people across the globe," said Amanda Richardson, PhD, MS, Senior Director for Research and Evaluation at Legacy. "These videos may influence uptake of LCCs by youth and young adults," she added.
LCCs have become an emerging and controversial issue in tobacco control, as these products are very similar to cigarettes, but with candy-flavors and low prices appealing to young people. Lack of regulation of these products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – compared to cigarettes – as well as tax classifications, have made these products readily available and appealing to consumers. National data on prevalence provide evidence of LCC's popularity with youth. In the last decade, cigarette consumption rates have declined while little cigars and cigarillo rates have increased dramatically, and young adults age 18-25 have the highest prevalence rates of LCC use within the past 30-days.
The study, "YouTube: a promotional vehicle for little cigars and cigarillos?", provides the first surveillance data of LCC-related videos on YouTube, and found that consumers are being exposed to messages promoting the use of these dangerous tobacco products.
Researchers examined and characterized the most viewed and relevant LCC-related YouTube videos retrieved using seven common LCC search terms and found:
- An overwhelming majority (77%) promoted the use of LCCs, and the remainder were mostly neutral (20%); and
- Several main themes around LCCs emerged, including where to purchase LCCs, the variety of candy flavors, their "smoothness," and the fact the LCCs are cheap, or cheaper than cigarettes.
The researchers also found that the videos were primary viewed by male youth in the United States and Canada, and most videos were amateur. Additionally, the promotional activities of the tobacco industry were evident as some video participants reported receiving free products, and supplied links directly back to the manufacturers.
"Youth seem to be the prime audience of YouTube videos promoting little cigars and cigarillos, which is not surprising since this demographic uses LCCs at the highest rates," said Donna Vallone, PhD, MPH, Senior Vice President for Research and Evaluation at Legacy. "The positive messages being delivered have negative implications for these vulnerable populations, especially with regards to supporting misperceptions about LCCs risk. More needs to be done to counter these messages and educate consumers," Richardson added. Legacy has been an active leader in researching little cigars and cigarillos and educating policy makers on their public health impact. For more information about LCCs, view Legacy's fact sheet here.
Cigars can be just as harmful as cigarettes. Like cigarettes, cigars pose significant health risks, contributing to cancers of the mouth, lung, esophagus, and larynx and possibly contributing to the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Since the passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, granting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over tobacco products, the FDA began to implement its regulatory authority to curb an epidemic that kills more than 400,000 Americans each year. To date, however, the FDA has not exercised its authority to assert jurisdiction on cigar products.
Although the tax structure is not a part of the act, tax treatment of cigars differs from cigarettes, making many cigar products less costly. This is concerning, as there is a direct correlation between higher costs and lower consumption of tobacco products.
Legacy helps people live longer, healthier lives by building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit. Legacy's proven-effective and nationally recognized public education programs include truth®, the national youth smoking prevention campaign that has been cited as contributing to significant declines in youth smoking; EX®, an innovative public health program designed to speak to smokers in their own language and change the way they approach quitting; and research initiatives exploring the causes, consequences and approaches to reducing tobacco use. Located in Washington, D.C., the foundation was created as a result of the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) reached between attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories and the tobacco industry. To learn more about Legacy's life-saving programs, visit www.LegacyForHealth.org.
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