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Internet May Be Newest Venue for Teen Tobacco Exposure
Date:7/20/2009

Social networking sites latest place to view smoking-related content, study shows,,,,

MONDAY, July 20 (HealthDay News) -- Even if you make sure your teen isn't watching TV shows or movies that glamorize smoking, he or she may still be getting positive tobacco messages via the Internet, particularly from popular social networking sites such as MySpace and Xanga.

A new study, published online July 20 in Pediatrics, found that the Internet is the newest place for kids to get exposure to positive messages on tobacco use. Although tobacco content was found on less than 1 percent of the pages that teens view, there were more pro-tobacco pages than anti-tobacco pages.

"We found that only a small proportion of Internet sites visited by adolescents contained tobacco messages. The significance of these messages in social networking and their impact on adolescent tobacco attitudes and use remain unclear," wrote the study's authors, from the Julius B. Richmond Center of Excellence at the American Academy of Pediatrics in Elk Grove Village, Ill.

Keeping teens from smoking is critical to ensuring that adult smoking rates go down. Ninety percent of smokers start smoking by their 21st birthday, according to the American Lung Association. About 3,600 kids between 12 and 17 try their first cigarette each day in the United States, and about one-third of those will become regular smokers, the lung association reports.

To assess what type of exposure teens are getting to tobacco messages from the Internet, the researchers randomly selected 346 teenagers with home Internet access. The teens allowed the study authors to track all of their page views for a 30-day period. The researchers then searched those pages for tobacco-related content.

In all, the study volunteers viewed 1.2 million Web pages. Of those, 8,702 (0.72 percent) contained tobacco or smoking content.

Pro-tobacco messages were found on
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