California IN BRIEF : SAN DIEGO : Ads Blamed for Teen Smoking

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Of all the influences that can draw children into a lifelong habit of smoking, cigarette advertising is the most persuasive, according to a survey of California youngsters. Peer pressure, the example of family members who smoke or a combination of the two are not nearly as powerful in prompting the smoking urge among children 12 to 17, when most start the habit, according to a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. "Tobacco marketing is much stronger than peer pressure in getting a youngster to take the first step toward smoking," said John P. Pierce of UC San Diego, a co-author of the study. "It is what starts adolescents down the slippery slope to addiction." The study was supported, in part, by the American Heart Assn., one of more than 100 health organizations backing a Food and Drug Administration plan to control cigarette advertising and marketing. Thomas Lauria of the Tobacco Institute, an industry lobby group, said Pierce's data "was at best dubious" and amounts to little more than "advertising bashing."

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