sealPurdue News

September 1996

Teens with a brand preference choose to smoke, drink more often

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Teens with a preference for a particular brand of cigarette or beer are using those substances more and are more likely to use them in the future, according to a study of more than 4,000 ninth- and 11th-grade students.

"Research shows that knowledge of beer and cigarette brands alone does not indicate usage. However, our study shows that having a preferred brand seems to be a factor in both current use and intention to use in the future," says Robert. A. Lewis, the Norma H. Compton Distinguished Professor of Child Development and Family Studies at Purdue University and expert on drug and alcohol abuse.

A large proportion of students reported having cigarette or beer brand preferences regardless of whether they were regular users. "Two-thirds of the regular cigarette smokers indicated a preferred brand, and even among those who had smoked only once or twice, 12 percent had a brand preference," Lewis says.

The findings have been accepted for publication in the Journal of Substance Abuse.

Overall, the older the student, the more likely it was that they would have a beer or cigarette brand preference, with preferences tending to increase with each grade. "Adolescents are more likely to have a preferred brand of beer than brand of cigarette, which runs parallel with alcohol and cigarette usage rates," Lewis says.

Despite that fact, recent government concern is over cigarette advertising -- more so than beer or alcohol ads. That may be tied to the nature of nicotine addiction. Stephen T. Tiffany, a Purdue psychology professor who studies nicotine, says there is no other drug that compares to it in its ability to become addictive. "If you smoke three or four cigarettes, there's a 90 percent likelihood that you will become a regular smoker at some time in your life," he says.

Lewis says other researchers have found that adolescent smokers are more aware of cigarette advertisements than non-smokers. And persons with a favorable response to cigarette advertising are more likely to smoke that first cigarette. "While this study cannot conclude that brand preferences were directly tied to cigarette and beer advertising, we do think this is the case," Lewis says. "The development of brand preference or loyalty is the declared goal of advertising."

Lewis found that how brand preference was related to current and future usage differed between cigarettes and beer. "Cigarette brand preference is associated with daily cigarette use and intention to smoke when older," Lewis says. "That risk appears to increase by grade, with the greatest risk among 11th-grade white males and females."

The relationship is less strong for beer and a student's intent to drink alcohol when older. "While beer-brand preference was an indicator of recent, heavy alcohol use, it did not necessarily indicate a student's intent to drink when older," Lewis says.

Eleventh-grade white females who had a cigarette brand preference were six and a half times more likely than classmates with no preference to intend to smoke cigarettes when older. For their white male classmates, the likelihood of intending to smoke was almost seven and a half times greater among those with a brand preference.

Among the 11th-grade students, more than 26 percent of white females and 24 percent of the males had a cigarette brand preference. That compares to more than 17 percent of the Hispanic females and 26 percent of the Hispanic males. Among African-Americans, 12 percent of the females and 11 percent of the males had a cigarette brand preference.

While cigarette use among African-Americans was low overall, 100 percent of all the regular smokers who were African-American indicated a preferred brand. The comparable figure for whites was 86 percent; for Hispanics, it was 76 percent.

For whites, the education level of their parents also was a factor in whether they had a cigarette or beer brand preference. "Specifically, white adolescents whose parents had not graduated from high school were approximately two times as likely to have a preferred brand of beer or cigarette as were those teens whose parents had at least some post-high school education," Lewis says.

The study was based on data from drug use questionnaires distributed to students at 47 schools in northwest Indiana and northeast Illinois. The study was conducted by Lewis and two former Purdue doctoral students: Dennis W. Edwards and Robert J. Volk, who is now a researcher at the University of Texas Medical Branch. The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Sources: Robert A. Lewis, (765) 494-2931; e-mail,
Stephen T. Tiffany, (765) 494-8509; e-mail,
Writer: Beth A. Forbes, (765) 494-9723; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A copy of the abstract or the 30-page study are available from Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723.

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