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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The effect of the internet on teen and young adult tobacco use: a literature review.

  • Author(s): Forsyth, Susan R
  • Kennedy, Christine
  • Malone, Ruth E
  • et al.

Research has shown that a positive association exists between exposure to smoking imagery, such as that found in movies and print advertising, and the subsequent uptake of cigarette smoking. Children appear to be especially vulnerable to advertising messaging and other positive portrayals of smoking, given that most adult smokers develop the habit before age 18 years. Although many traditional types of media have been studied, the current generation of youth is growing up as digital natives, with young people increasingly using the Internet for entertainment and to obtain information. Currently the Internet is an essentially unregulated marketplace of ideas and images. However, the effect of the Internet on teen smoking initiation has received little attention in studies. In this literature review, we summarize and critique the existing work, identify current knowledge gaps, and offer suggestions to health care providers about how to address this issue.

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