Youth who watch a lot of movies with cigarette-smoking characters, no matter what the film's rating is, are more likely to start smoking themselves, according to a new U.S. study.
The lead author of the report, which appeared in Pediatrics, said the conclusion supports the idea that the smoking itself - not the sex, profanity or violence that may go along with it in certain films - influences teens to take up the habit.
"Movie smoking seems to be just as impactful if it's packaged in a PG-13 movie as opposed to an R movie," said James Sargent, from the Geisei School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Lebanon, New Hampshire.
"I really think it's a 'cool' factor. The more they see it, the more they start to see ways that (smoking) might make them seem more movie star," he told Reuters Health.
Sargent and his colleagues counted how many times a character was seen smoking in each of over 500 box-office hits from recent years. Then they asked 6,500 U.S. children aged 10 to 14 which of a random selection of 50 of those movies they'd watched.
The average "dose" of movie smoking was 275 scenes from films rated PG-13 and 93 scenes from R movies, the researchers said.
In three subsequent interviews with the same youths, those who had watched smoking-heavy movies were more likely to pick up the habit themselves. For each extra 500 smoking shots reported in their initial survey, young people were 33 to 49 percent more likely to try cigarettes over the next two years.
The effect of on-screen smoking was not significantly different for PG-13 and R films. Because young people tend to see more PG-13 films, Sargent's team calculated that if smoking automatically earned an R rating, the number of youngsters who try cigarettes would drop by 18 percent.
In the United States, a movie rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America suggests some material may be inappropriate for kids under age 13. An R rating means children under age 17 must be accompanied by an adult.
"At this point, it is established that exposure to smoking in movies is a potent risk factor for actually taking up smoking, especially when the exposures are early," said Brian Primack, head of the Program for Research on Media and Health at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
"This study goes a step further and suggests that taking smoking out of all PG-13 movies could have a palpable effect on the impact of smoking in the US," he told Reuters Health in an email.
But another researcher who was not involved in the study said he wasn't sure if eliminating smoking from all non-R movies was "the magic answer."
Matthew Farrelly, who studies smoking at the scientific institute RTI in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, said the study is a step in the right direction but that he wasn't sure the researchers could totally discount the influence of violence and profanity in moves on kids' decision to try smoking just by looking at movie ratings.
"I'm hoping that someone can disentangle smoking in the movies from other content that might appeal to youth to really firm up the relationship," he said.
Though the link between on-screen smoking and trying cigarettes "makes sense," Farrelly added: "I just think the relationship has been vastly overstated." SOURCE: http://bit.ly/jsoh2P
Despite all-out efforts to give the Chinese Communist Party blue skies for its twice-a-decade congress, Beijing's notorious smog has cloaked the mega-city in its trademark toxic haze.
Equipment donation to children's oncology institute is first project of state-run aid agency TIKA in Brazil
Some 450 other suspected cases seen in island nation; president says health workers are able to contain epidemic
UN says 900,000 doses of oral vaccine are to be given to Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in neighboring Myanmar
3 cholera quarantine centers have been formed where victims are being treated
12 cases confirmed, 32 persons quarantined to halt spread of disease, says disease control body
Provided by UNICEF, vaccinations will be administered by public health officials in Syria’s Idlib province
Eggs tainted by the insecticide mostly originate from farms in those two countries but have since been found in 45 nations worldwide, the European health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitisa said last week.
The UN says cholera is a major public health problem in the country with millions of cases registered every year. Last year, the disease claimed 817 lives there, according to the WHO.
The ministerial meeting will include representatives from some 30 countries, according to Canada's minister of environment and climate change, Catherine McKenna.
Cholera is endemic in Nigeria, with a rise in cases during rainy season from April to September, says disease control center
Police officers tested positive for cholera after eating infected food; health minister blames food workers
"Up to September 1, 14 deaths have been reported," the health ministry said in a statement, adding that "the total number of suspected cholera cases stands at 186."
Pharmaceutical company says treatment has more than 80 percent success rate for form of leukemia
Federal agency orders StemImmune to stop injecting vaccine into tumors of cancer patients
565,041 suspected cases of cholera have been recorded in the country since April 27