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Smoking in Movies May Put Teens at Risk

Silver screen cues tend to reinforce positive associations with the habit, study says

TUESDAY, Sept. 4, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Teens imitate more than just the clothes and mannerisms of movie stars -- they are also more likely to begin smoking if they see smoking in the movies, a U.S. study finds.

Publishing in the September issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, University of Dartmouth researchers argued that smoking in movies may contribute to occasional teen smokers becoming dependent smokers.

The research team surveyed 6,522 U.S. youths between the ages of 10 and 14 about their smoking and movie-watching habits in 2003. The researchers coded displays of smoking in 532 hit movies in the five years prior to the survey and then asked the teens if they had seen a random selection of 50 of the movies. They then created a measure of smoking exposure by adding the number of smoking events in the portion of the 50 movies the teen had seen, dividing that by the number of occurrences in all 50 movies, and multiplying that number by the number of smoking episodes in all 532 movies.

The researchers followed up with the teens three more times over a two-year period.

At the beginning of the study, nine out of 10 teens had never smoked. Thirty-three teens reported smoking more than 100 cigarettes. By the end of the two-year follow-up, 125 of the teens were established smokers.Teens who saw less than half of movie smoking episodes were less likely than teens who saw more movie smoking events to report smoking more than 100 cigarettes. Age, peer smoking, parental smoking and risk- taking behavior did not contribute to the choice to smoke with the same strength as exposure to smoking in the movies, the researchers said.

The exact nature of the influence that movies have on teen smoking is not clear, the researchers said, but they theorized that frequent exposure to smoking cues in movies leads to more positive associations with smoking and smokers.

More information

To learn more about teens and smoking, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Sept. 3, 2007
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