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

1,916 pages and anti-tobacco content was included on 1,572 pages. The authors said the tobacco messages were "complex or unclear" on 5,055 pages.

More than half of the tobacco-related page views -- 53 percent -- came from social networking sites (at the time of the study, MySpace was the predominant social networking site). Often, mentions of smoking or tobacco use were part of user profiles.

Forty-three percent of teens were exposed to pro-tobacco imagery, according to the study. Tobacco products were specifically sold on 50 of the pages, and 242 pages contained links to tobacco products sold on other sites.

"That kids are being exposed to tobacco products in all facets of their lives is not a surprise," said Erika Sward, director of national advocacy for the lung association. "And I'm not surprised that the tobacco companies are on the cutting edge. They're always creative in finding new ways to target and prey on kids."

Sward said the good news was that the study found that not all of the content teens were viewing was pro-tobacco, but the study highlights the need for legislation regarding how tobacco products are promoted online, and that tobacco-control programs should design counter-marketing methods for the Internet.

"This study starts to increase awareness of potential exposure to tobacco messages," said pediatrician Dr. Deborah Moss, from Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, who added that studies have shown tobacco exposure in movies can make teens more likely to smoke, and that Internet exposure may have the same effect.

"One of the things these researchers are concerned about is the social networking sites," said Moss. "Teens are sensitive to the perception of normalcy in behaviors, and from these sites, they could get a misperception that everyone is smoking."

Sward said one of the most important ways to make sure your child doesn't smoke is to not smoke yourself. "The strongest pre
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