WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 (Xinhua) -- More than two-thirds of young children in developing nations could identify at least one cigarette brand logo, according to a U.S. study released Monday that examined the reach of tobacco marketing to five and six year olds in countries where adult smoking rates are the highest.
Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health worked one-on-one with five and six year olds in Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Russia, asking them to match pictures of different products with their corresponding cigarette logos.
In China, where roughly 71 percent of households with participating children had a tobacco user, 86 percent of children could identify at least one cigarette brand logo, the researchers reported in the journal Pediatrics.
Pakistan had the second highest percentage, with 84 percent of children capable of identifying at least one cigarette brand logo. Russia ranked last on the list with half of the participants able to identify any of the cigarette brand logos.
"(What surprised us most was) that children who were so young, five and six years old, were so familiar with tobacco logos," Dina Borzekowski, lead author of the study and research professor in the University of Maryland, told Xinhua.
She said that even in households without smokers children could identify tobacco logos. This is because "not only do children see logos in their homes, the neighborhood stores where the children visit have very prominent tobacco advertisements," Borzekowski said.
With five- and six-year-old children aware of domestic and international tobacco brands, there is a need to enforce stronger regulations for tobacco advertising,the researchers said.
Borzekowski and colleagues suggested changes including requiring larger graphic warning labels on cigarette packages. Additionally, they urged changes to limit children's exposure to the point of sale of tobacco products, including establishing minimum distances between these retailers and places frequented by young children.
"We know that children who are more aware of smoking have more positive attitudes about smoking and are more likely to smoke," Borzekowski said.
"If we want to reduce smoking, especially among young people, we need to lessen the prominence of tobacco brands in children's lives. Better enforcement of existing laws should happen," she added.