A new study, published in the Journal of Health Communication, has found that cannabis advertisements and store locations of retailers influence teenagers’ intentions to use marijuana.

Researchers from Washington State University conducted a survey on adolescents to find out whether marijuana ads and the store locations of cannabis retailers influence teenagers to use the drug.

Study authors Stacey Hust and Jessica Willoughby of the Murrow College of Communication asked participants about intentions of using marijuana after watching the ads and knowing about the store locations. They also asked whether or not using marijuana would be good for them personally and or socially.

The study found that regular exposure to cannabis ads on storefronts, billboards, retailer websites, and other store locations increased the likelihood of teenagers to use the drug.

Willoughby said, “While there are restrictions against using advertising designed specifically to target youth, it does still appear to be having some influence. Our research suggests a need to equip adolescents with the knowledge and skills to critically evaluate marijuana advertisements.”

Retail store locations did play a role in influencing adolescents’ intentions to use marijuana, but the results were mixed.

It was found that participants who said they lived within five miles of a shop selling cannabis products were more likely to get influenced than those who lived farther away from the stores.

Hust said, “This was especially the case when they also reported having positive beliefs about marijuana use. The study participants who felt positively about marijuana and perceived living close to retailers were the most likely to report intentions to use marijuana.”

“Our findings are particularly relevant given that most states that have legalized recreational marijuana have not restricted their proximity to neighborhoods or living areas, which may be particularly challenging in large metropolitan areas,” Hust continued.

“States may want to consider using census data to identify the proportion of teens living in particular areas as they identify the location for marijuana retailers,” she added.

The investigators will now test different types of cannabis ads to see how young people try to interpret and respond to them.

Hust explained, “One of the things this research and other studies suggest is that these advertisements are pretty prolific in certain areas and we want to see what type of appeals are used in the advertisements and how those appeals affect viewers.”

“Our long-term goal is really to develop a better understanding of how adolescents can make healthy and informed decisions in an environment in which marijuana is legal,” she added. The article appeared on Science Daily, with original material acquired from Washington State University.