LEBANON, NEW HAMPSHIRE. Researchers at Dartmouth Medical School believe that movies have a powerful effect on the smoking behaviour of adolescents. The researchers screened 50 movies and found that most of them depicted actors smoking at one time or another (five times on average during the movie). They then questioned 4900 adolescent school children (ages 9 to 15 years) as to which of the movies they had seen. The typical adolescent had seen 17 of the 50 and watched an average of three movies a week. The researchers found a strong correlation between exposure to smoking scenes in movies and having had a go at smoking. Adolescents who had seen more than 150 "smoking scenes" were three times more likely to have tried smoking than were children who had only witnessed 0 to 50 such scenes. This ratio held true even after adjusting for other variables such as having a parent or sibling who already smoked. Overall, 4.9 per cent of adolescents who had seen 0 to 50 smoking scenes had tried smoking as compared to 31.3 per cent among those who had seen more than 150 scenes. The researchers conclude that exposure to tobacco use in films is pervasive and plays a crucial role in inducing youngsters to take "that first puff".
Sargent, James D., et al. Effect of seeing tobacco use in films on trying smoking among adolescents: cross sectional study. British Medical Journal, Vol. 323, December 15, 2001, pp. 1394-97