The 130th Annual Meeting of APHA

5145.0: Wednesday, November 13, 2002 - 2:30 PM

Abstract #40691

Sex and under-aged smoking online: Blocking access to online tobacco sites

Michael J Cody, PhD, Elisia Cohen, MA, Julie Albright, PhD, Traci Hong, MA, and Sheila T. Murphy, PhD. School of Communication, University of Southern California, 3502 Watt Way, 101 C Annenberg Building, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0281, 213-740-3936,

Two studies evaluated the effectiveness of Internet access monitoring programs to block access to tobacco sales sites and to pro-tobacco sites featuring life styles, portraying smoking as glamorous, sexy, mature, etc. In the first study, a sample of 154 Web sites selling tobacco products was generated after conducting multiple searches using four search engines and different tobacco related terms. A program called Bess/N2H2 was significantly better than other viable programs and blocked access to 65% of these tobacco sales sites. Second, we report on the amount of under-aged smoking and the use of sex appeal linked to tobacco sites online. We evaluate a sample of 86 Websites containing sex appeals and under-aged smoking, and found females portrayals on such sites are linked to glamour, rebellion, physical attractiveness and thinness. Commonly used filtering/blocking programs varied dramatically in their relative effectiveness to filter or block these sites. Implications for future research and for advancing a tobacco-free Internet are discussed

Learning Objectives: Participants will view data from two studies comparing and contrasting Internet filtering programs designed to block access to tobacco and alcohol sites. The first examined filtering programs' ability to block a sample of 154 Web sites selling tobacco products. Participants will recognize that one popular stand-alone program, Bess/N2H2, is fairly effective in blocking tobacco sales sites. Other popular programs, CyberPatrol, Cyber Sitter and Net Nanny were largely ineffective in blocking access to tobacco sites. A second study comparing 86 pro-tobacco Web sites featuring sex appeal and 93 pro-tobacco Web sites that feature human models without sex appeal revealed that sex appeal was significantly associated with thin, young, attractive females, and to images of glamour, affluence and rebellious lifestyles. The program Bess/N2H2 was surperior to other programs at blocking access to the sites, but not as effective than blocking access to sales sites. Participants will develop an understanding of the limitations of the Master Settlement Agreement on online tobacco promotion activities and the limitations of Internet Access Monitoring programs. With thousands of new Web pages posted daily, "oversight" committees creating "not lists" can hardly keep up with monitoring an increasing number of sites, many of a questionable nature. Many of the companies selling filtering programs allow, even request, subscribers to submit Web sites containing objectionable material to them for review. The public will be encouraged to become more actively involved Internet access monitoring in two ways