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
The three worst-hit countries of West Africa - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - account for the bulk, recording 4,912 deaths out of 10,114 cases
There are 883 confirmed cases of the deadly virus, out of which 319 people have died since 2012, the WHO says
WHO announces one million doses of Ebola vaccine to be produced in 2015
That pact would aim to improve on two decades of stuttering cooperation and rein in emissions of carbon dioxide blamed for a disruptive rise in temperatures
The World Health Organization last month urged the use of blood-derived products and serum from survivors.
Pentagon rapid-response Ebola medical team was scheduled to begin training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas
Extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB), which is even more expensive and difficult to treat than multi drug-resistant (MDR-TB) strains, has now been reported in 100 countries around the world.
Device can be used in the field without special equipment, according to developers
The technique involved transplanting what are known as olfactory ensheathing cells into the patient's spinal cord and constructing a "nerve bridge" between two stumps of the damaged spinal column.
The meeting in Cuba is aimed at keeping Ebola at bay and it brings together senior officials from the ALBA bloc of nations
Wildlife conservationists have struggled to reverse a decline in numbers of several African species, undermined by ferocious poaching by gangs which mostly ship the ivory to Asia.
Jerald Dennis is feeling stigmatized by his neighbors and has been shunned by his friends
Peru's 2,679 glaciers, spread over 19 snow-capped mountain ranges, are the source of the vast majority of the country's drinking water.
Some 85 percent of people said they thought the disease spread through sneezing or coughing, despite the fact that the World Health Organization regards that type of transmission as unlikely
No approved specific drug or treatment available for battling fatal pandemic virus hitting many West African countries
The death toll so far in the outbreak, first reported in Guinea in March, has reached 4,447 from a total of 8,914 cases, said WHO Assistant Director General Bruce Aylward.