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“They’re Smoking too!”: Monitoring Tobacco Content in Popular TV Storylines aimed at Multi-Cultural Teen Audiences

Arul Chib, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California, 3610 Hathaway Ave., #162, Long Beach, CA 90815, 213-821-2240, chib@usc.edu and Sheila T. Murphy, PhD, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California, 3502 Watt Way, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0281.

Teens are especially susceptible to experimentation with health-hazardous activities such as smoking tobacco. They are further exposed to a host of messages in the popular media that may influence their attitudes and behavior regarding tobacco use. Theoretically stated, social learning theory (Bandura, 2003) posits that symbolic modeling allows individuals to enhance their personal self-efficacy by observing alters. This suggests that media characters can influence the degree to which an audience member will replicate or adopt an observed behavior. Operationalizing this, entertainment-education (E-E) utilizes entertainment media programs to influence and motivate viewers’ attitudes and behavior as well as provide knowledge about health issues. The presentation examines a content analysis study of smoking in the top-rated TV shows targeted at teens over a season. The findings include: a comparative analysis of messages targeted at specific ethnicities (Hispanic, African American and general audiences) and age groups; an analysis of media characters as distinguished by dramatic importance, genre and socio-economic variables; the relative importance of the message itself—visual cues, mentions or integrated in major or minor storylines; and outcomes, positive and negative, that impact the attitudes and behaviors of viewers . The results will help to: (1) understand how smoking portrayals addressing teen audiences are currently characterized in TV storylines, (2) discover whether there are cultural differences in the types of portrayals and in the various genres, and (3) provide material for reports and recommendations to improve anti-tobacco communication through entertainment programming.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Media, Smoking

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Focus on the Adolescent/Young Adult in Health Communication Research

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA