Tobacco Marketing and Alternative Tobacco Use among College Students

Young adult use of non-cigarette alternative tobacco products is becoming increasingly prevalent in the United States. Yet, there is limited information on the diversity of tobacco products used by young adults, the changes and patterns of use across time, and the impact of tobacco marketing on young adults’ use of non-cigarette. This project will establish a rapid response surveillance system to monitor, and respond to, changes in tobacco marketing and trends in young adults’ use of non-cigarette alternatives, including flavored products.

We will track changes in young adults’ tobacco use, brand preferences, and tobacco use perceptions and beliefs over the three years. Data will be collected from young adults from two subgroups (n = 4,056): students enrolled in 4-year colleges and those enrolled in 2-year vocational programs. Vocational students tend to occupy lower socio-economic status (SES) categories than students enrolled in 4-year colleges, are more likely to be racial/ethnic minorities, and to have higher rates of tobacco use. Disparities in rates of tobacco use between the two groups may be due to differential tobacco marketing, which targets minority and lower SES individuals more heavily than other groups. At the same time, we will conduct ongoing direct observation of tobacco print advertisements, brand websites, direct mail/email, and bar promotions. Data will characterize the tobacco marketing to which the two groups are exposed and in turn, examine the impact of marketing on changes in tobacco use over time.