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Children's Health

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Docs Call for Ban on Tobacco Ads

Pediatricians Propose Stricter Limits on Tobacco, Alcohol, and Other Drug Ads
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 27, 2010 -- In a new policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for the government to ban all tobacco advertising accessible to children and to limit alcohol and other drug ads on television, online, and in other media.

"It is time to eliminate all tobacco advertising and to decrease greatly the depiction of smoking in mainstream media," write researcher Victor C. Strasburger, MD, and colleagues in Pediatrics. "Although parents, schools, and the federal government are trying to get children and teenagers to 'just say no' to drugs, more than $25 billion worth of cigarette, alcohol, and prescription drug advertising is effectively working to get them to 'just say yes' to smoking, drinking, and other drugs."

The group is also calling on the entertainment industry to restrict tobacco and drug use in television and movies aimed at younger audiences.

They cite research showing that watching television and movies that depict alcohol and drug use are risk factors for drug and alcohol use in adolescents.

"Unlike traditional advertising, media depictions of legal drugs are generally positive and invite no criticism, because they are not viewed as advertising," they write. "The result is that young people receive mixed messages about substance use, and the media contribute significantly to the risk that young people will engage in substance use."

For example, alcohol use is shown every 14 minutes on MTV, and a recent analysis of 359 music videos revealed alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drugs were present in nearly half of the videos studied.

On mainstream prime time television, researchers say more than one-third of the drinking scenes are humorous and negative consequences are shown only in one in five cases.

Researchers' Recommendations

Until stricter standards are adopted, researchers recommend parents limit children's access to television and movies that contain excessive substance use.

In order to limit the influence of these messages, the group also recommends that parents:

  • Limit younger children's exposure to PG-13 movies and avoid R-rated movies.
  • Watch TV and movies with your children and discuss the content being viewed.
  • Turn off the television during meals.
  • Remove televisions from children's bedrooms. Research has shown having a TV in the bedroom is associated with greater substance abuse and sexual activity in teenagers.

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