Published in the journal Pediatrics, the research was conducted among about 2,400 five and six year-old children from Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Russia. As part of the research, children were asked to match logos with pictures of products, including eight cigarette brands logos. About 70 percent of the children in the survey could identify at least one cigarette logo.
Chinese children were more likely to be able to identify at least one logo, with 86 percent of children able to complete the task.
While smoking is stabilising or decreasing in wealthy countries, people in low and middle-income countries are taking up the habit at alarming rates. In China, for example, nearly one third of adults are cigarette smokers, according to data from the World Health Organisation.
Pakistan had the second highest percentage of children able to identify the logos, with 84 percent of children passing the test. Russia ranked last on the list with half of the participants able to identify any of the cigarette brand logos.
While older children who lived with a smoker were significantly more likely to recognise at least one brand in the study, researchers noted that even children without exposure to households smokers were familiar with the images.
“It should be of great concern that the majority of very young children in our study were familiar with at least one cigarette brand,” said Dr. Dina Borzekowski, lead author of the study and research professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.
She added that previous studies have shown that children and adolescents who are highly exposed to pro-smoking messages are more likely to smoke.
“Multi-national tobacco companies appear to have moved their promotional efforts from high-income, industrialised countries to low- and middle-income countries where there are often weak tobacco control policies and poor enforcement,” Borzekowski said.
According to authors, there is a need to enforce stronger regulations in countries where tobacco companies have increased efforts to attract new users.
Borzekowski and colleagues suggest including larger graphic warning labels on cigarette packages and establishing minimum distances between tobacco retailers and places frequented by young children.
“Countries can implement and enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, including putting large picture warnings on the front and back of cigarette packs,” added co-author Dr. Joanna Cohen, director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Global Tobacco Control. “Plain and standardised packaging, now required in Australia, also helps to reduce the attractiveness of cigarette packs among young children.” – Health-e News Service.