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Smoking behavior and use of tobacco industry sponsored websites among medical students and young physicians in Argentina.

  • Author(s): Salgado, M Victoria
  • Mejia, Raul
  • Kaplan, Celia P
  • Perez-Stable, Eliseo J
  • et al.

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Internet-based marketing has become an attractive option for promoting tobacco products due to its potential to avoid advertising restrictions. In Argentina, several cigarette brands have designed websites for the local market, which promote user participation.The intent of the study was to report on the use of tobacco company-sponsored websites by medical students and recently graduated physicians.An online self-administered survey was conducted among eligible medical students and recent graduates from the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). Sampling was from lists of email addresses of students enrolled in two required courses. Eligibility criteria were ages 18-30 years and reporting on smoking status. Questions on Internet use included accessing a tobacco brand website at least once during their lifetime and any use of tobacco promotional materials.The response rate was 35.08% (1743/4969). The final sample included 1659 participants: 73.06% (1212/1659) were women and mean age was 26.6 years (SD 1.9). The majority were current medical students (55.70%, 924/1659) and 27.31% (453/1659) were current smokers. Men were more likely to report having seen a tobacco advertisement on the Internet (P=.001), to have received a tobacco promotion personally addressed to them (P=.03), to have used that promotion (P=.02), and to have accessed a tobacco-sponsored website (P=.01). Among respondents, 19.35% (321/1659) reported having accessed a tobacco-sponsored website at least once in their lifetime and almost all of them (93.8%, 301/321) accessed these sites only when it was necessary for participating in a marketing promotion. Most people logging on for promotions reported entering once a month or less (58.9%, 189/321), while 25.5% (82/321) reported accessing the tobacco industry Internet sites once a week or more. In adjusted logistic regression models, participants were more likely to have accessed a tobacco brand website if they were former smokers (OR 2.45, 95% CI 1.42-4.22) or current (OR 8.12, 95% CI 4.66-14.16), if they reported having seen a tobacco advertisement on the Internet (OR 2.44, 95% CI 1.77-3.37), received a tobacco promotion personally addressed to them (OR 5.62; 95% CI 4.19-7.55), or used one of these promotions (OR 14.05, 95% CI 9.21-21.43). Respondents were more likely to be current smokers if they received a tobacco promotion (OR 2.64, 95% CI 2.02-3.45) or if they used one of these promotions (OR 1.93, 95% CI 1.31-2.85).Our study suggests that tobacco industry websites reach medical students and young physicians in a middle-income country with their marketing promotions. Current or proposed legislation to ban tobacco advertising needs to include Internet sites and related social media.

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