Smoking in movies influences children to smoke in real life

Smoking in movies influences children to smoke in real life

The last great cigarette advertising stronghold in the modern Western World is in the movies.  Does it make children smoke?  You bet.  With the average age that 90% of smokers start being 14.6; the movies now have the biggest influence.  This needs to change.   

Let the experts speak
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention knows that movies are just as powerful as traditional tobacco ads.  For this reason, national public health groups like Legacy, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and more have strongly urged the movie industry to respond to this public health crisis by assigning an R rating to all movies with smoking.  Since a PG-13 rating allows filmmakers to draw larger audiences, the R rating might in turn decrease the prevalence of onscreen smoking in youth-rated films. 

The latest study shows the power of the movies
The longitudinal survey on 6,522 adolescents with follow-up every 8 months, over a 2-year period, found that kids aged 10-14 were 49% more likely to have tried a cigarette for every 500 they saw smoked on the screen in PG-13 movies.  

James D. Sargent, MD, a professor of pediatrics at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., said “By eliminating smoking from PG-13 movies, an R-rating for movie smoking would cut youth smoking by one-fifth.  The film industry has known about the relationship between smoking in movies and kids smoking for years and it still has not meaningfully incorporated smoking into its rating system.  What we want them to do is give an unambiguous R rating for smoking.  Just as kids shouldn’t be watching extreme violence or extreme sex, they shouldn’t be watching smoking.  If saying the ‘F’ word twice gets you an R rating, certainly something as important as smoking should get you an R rating.  PG-13 rated movies account for most of the salient movie smoking adolescents see”.

“At this point, it is established that exposure to smoking in movies is a potent risk factor for actually taking up smoking, especially when the exposures are early” said Dr. Brian Primack, head of the Program for Research on Media and Health at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. 

“This is a compelling study that adds to the existing research and leads us to one unequivocal conclusion, and that is that smoking in movies should result in an R rating” said Michael C. Fiore, M.D., director of the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research, in Madison.

Study by Sargent JD, et al “Influence of motion picture rating on adolescent response to movie smoking” as published in Pediatrics, July 9, 2012; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-1787.  The survey study was supported by a National Cancer Institute grant and the American Legacy Foundation.  As reported by MedPage Today, Reuters Health, WebMD Health News, Time, and PRNewswire on July 9, 2012.

Posted: Wednesday 11 July 2012