Smoking in Movies May Tempt Kids
Study: Children Who See On-Screen Smoking Are More Likely to Try Smoking
Jan. 7, 2008 -- Nearly a third of kids aged 9-12 who start smoking do so because they saw movies in which characters smoked, according to new research on movies, children, and smoking.
The study, published today in Pediatrics, comes from Dartmouth Medical School Professor Linda Titus-Enrstoff, PhD, and colleagues.
"The take-home message from our study is that the influence of viewing smoking in the movies starts much earlier than previously thought," Titus-Ernstoff tells WebMD via email. "Also, most of children's exposure to movie smoking comes from youth-rated movies (G, PG, PG-13), so simply preventing kids from watching R-rated movies won't protect them from movie smoking exposure."
Titus-Ernstoff and colleagues studied more than 2,200 kids aged 9-12 in New Hampshire and Vermont.
Every year for three years, starting in 2002, the kids got a yearly list of 50 recent, popular films including 102 Dalmatians, George of the Jungle, The Perfect Storm, Chicago, and Fight Club.
On average, the kids claimed to have seen about a third of the films, which translates into seeing on-screen smoking 150 times during the three-year period.
Each year during the study, the kids also reported how many cigarettes they had ever smoked. Even a few puffs counted.
Kids who saw smoking more often in movies were more likely to smoke cigarettes themselves. That finding held despite other factors, including parental smoking and strictness.
It wasn't just the older kids who mimicked movie smoking. Younger kids were also influenced by seeing smoking in the movies, the study shows.
The study was conducted before the May 2007 announcement by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) that it will base movie ratings, in part, on smoking shown on screen.
Titus-Ernstoff also notes that parents "can assess the tobacco content (among other types of content) by visiting web sites such as www.screenit.com or www.kids-in-mind.com."