R-Rated Movies Linked With Teen Smoking
Movies, TV Shows Greatly Influence Teens' Identity
WebMD News Archive
July 6, 2004 -- When teens aren't allowed to watch R-rated
movies, they are less likely to try cigarettes in the future, a new study
Movies influence teens greatly, reflecting social customs and
perpetuating those customs, writes lead researcher James D. Sargent, MD, a
pediatrician with Dartmouth Medical School. His study appears in the current
issue of the journal Pediatrics.
In an earlier study, Sargent showed that when parents restrict
viewing of R-rated movies, teens are less likely to smoke. "To the extent
that they control media access, parents may influence how much smoking their
children see in movies," he writes.
To further examine this link, Sargent and his colleagues
surveyed 2,596 middle-school students. Ten percent of students tried smoking
during the study period. The researchers found that smoking initiation rates
increased as parental restriction of R-rated movies decreased.
- 19% of the teens reported their parents never allowed them to view R-rated
movies; of these teens, only 3% started smoking.
- 29% of teens were allowed to watch R-rated movies once in a while; of these
teens, 7% started smoking. These teens were almost twice as likely to smoke
than teens completely restricted from watching R-rated movies.
- 52% of the students were allowed to view R-rated movies some or all the
time; 14% of those teens smoked. These teens were three times more likely to
smoke than teens completely restricted from watching R-rated movies.
In essence, teen smoking rates increased in direct proportion
to their parents' leniency regarding movies, writes Sargent. Also, the
researchers find that the link is strongest in teens whose family members did
In families where no one smoked and kids were never allowed to
see R-rated movies, less than 1% tried smoking.
"These results indicate that, by exerting control over
media choices and by not smoking themselves, parents can prevent or delay the
adoption of smoking in their children," writes Sargent.
By banning R-rated movies, parents set a standard for social
influences on their children, he writes. These parents also are more likely to
keep kids from watching TV dramas that show smoking. This control protects kids
from identifying with characters on the screen who smoke -- an identity-forming
process that studies show is important in preventing teen smoking.