THURSDAY, Sept. 27, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Depictions of smoking in top-grossing, youth-rated movies increased in 2011, reversing a five-year decline, a new report shows.
The finding comes just a few months after the U.S. Surgeon General's office warned that seeing smoking in movies causes young people to start smoking.
The report found that four of the six major Hollywood studios featured more smoking in their youth-rated (G, PG and PG-13) movies in 2011. Compared to 2010, the number of depictions of smoking per youth-rated movie increased by more than one-third.
The sharpest increase in the number of tobacco depictions per youth-rated movie were in films from the three major studies with published policies addressing onscreen smoking: Disney, Universal and Warner Brothers.
The number of top-grossing, youth-rated movies that were tobacco-free fell 17 percent over one year among companies with policies, while tobacco depictions in their movies rose from an average of one per movie in 2010 to 8.5 per movie in 2011.
Across the movie industry, youth-rated movies accounted for 68 percent of all tobacco depictions seen by audiences in 2011, compared with 39 percent in 2010, according to the report published Sept. 27 in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal Preventing Chronic Disease.
The report was funded by Legacy for Health, a national public health group seeking to reduce tobacco use in the United States.
"These data show us that individual policies that movie studios created in good faith to address this important public health problem do not stand up," Cheryl Healton, Legacy president and CEO, said in a organization news release.
"The only way to ensure a substantial and permanent reduction in young people's exposure to onscreen smoking is for the movie industry to adopt a uniform set of policies that apply to all producers and distributors, and provide structural incentives for lasting change," Healton said.
Report lead author Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said in the release: "In 2011, the steady progress we had seen since 2005, led by three companies who each demonstrated that smoking in youth-rated movies could be all but eliminated, stopped and slipped backward. The stark difference in performance between those three major studios with policies and the three without all but disappeared last year."
"The result of this increase in the amount of onscreen smoking will be thousands of more kids starting to smoke," he added.
The MPAA rating system should be modified to give movies with any tobacco use an R rating, the study suggested.
The American Lung Association outlines why kids start smoking.