Research review finds tobacco scenes in movies boost teen smoking

December 05, 2005

The first complete review of research on the link between teenagers viewing on-screen smoking and then taking up smoking themselves finds that one leads to the other.

The review concludes that eliminating scenes of smoking in new youth-rated films should substantially reduce smoking initiation in the adolescent years, when the vast majority of smokers start.

"The weight of dozens of studies, after controlling for all other known influences, shows the more smoking that kids see on screen, the more likely they are to smoke," said lead author Annemarie Charlesworth, a research specialist at the University of California, San Francisco Institute for Health Policy Studies. "This strong empirical evidence affects hundreds of thousands of families."

The research review, published in the December issue of Pediatrics, a peer-reviewed publication of the American Academy of Pediatrics, examined the findings of 42 studies on how viewing on-screen smoking affects adolescent and teen smoking behavior.

Among the conclusions:

The study found that adolescents and teens who received less exposure to on-screen smoking because their parents consistently limited their viewing of R-rated films were less likely to start smoking (after adjusting for all other influences) than those who saw more.

"This result indicates that lowering exposure by removing smoking from youth-marketed films will reduce the number of kids who start smoking," said Stanton Glantz, PhD, UCSF professor of medicine, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UCSF and the paper's senior author.

"More than a decade of independent experimental and epidemiological research shows that the tobacco industry was smart, from a marketing point of view, in investing millions of dollars to put smoking on the American screen," Glantz said.

"This strong and consistent scientific evidence has major implications for the current policy debate between the pediatricians and parents, on one side, and a handful of media companies on the other. The science is in; getting smoking out of youth rated movies is the simplest and least expensive thing that can be done to reduce adolescent smoking."
-end-
This work was supported by the National Cancer Institute.

UCSF is a leading university that consistently defines health care worldwide by conducting advanced biomedical research, educating graduate students in the life sciences, and providing complex patient care.

University of California - San Francisco

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