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Decrease in Tobacco Use on TV Dramas Since 1955

Downward trend parallels historical cigarette consumption trends

TUESDAY, April 8, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The portrayal of tobacco use on television (TV) dramas has decreased since 1955, in line with historical cigarette consumption trends, according to a study published online April 3 in Tobacco Control.

Patrick E. Jamieson, Ph.D., and Daniel Romer, Ph.D., from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, examined long-term trends in tobacco portrayal in U.S. TV dramas, and their associations with trends in national adult cigarette consumption. Data were collected from 1,838 hours of popular U.S. TV dramas from 1955 to 2010.

The researchers identified a downward trend in TV tobacco portrayal since 1955, in accordance with historical cigarette consumption trends. There was a correlation between annual changes of one tobacco instance per episode hour across two years of programming, with an annual change of 38.5 cigarettes per US adult, after adjustment for changes in cigarette prices and other factors. Over the study period, the potential effect of TV tobacco portrayal was nearly half that of increases in cigarette prices.

"The correlation between tobacco portrayal in TV dramas and adult cigarette consumption is consistent with well-established effects of exposure to tobacco cues that create craving for cigarettes in adult smokers," the authors write. "Although tobacco use in TV dramas along with movies has declined over time, portrayal of smoking on screen media should be a focus for future adult tobacco control research and policy."

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