Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

R-Rated Movies Linked With Teen Smoking

Movies, TV Shows Greatly Influence Teens' Identity

WebMD Health News

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 shows.

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.

Their findings:

  • 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 not smoke.

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.

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
 
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
 
mother and daughter talking
Tool
child brushing his teeth
Slideshow
 
Sipping hot tea
Slideshow
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Article
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
 
tissue box
Quiz
Child with adhd
Slideshow