Smoking on Screen: Reel Real Impact

August 22, 2008–Smoking in movies is linked to kids' decisions to smoke, according to a new federal report. The National Cancer Institute, which produced the 684-page report, says it has reached “the government's strongest conclusion to date of such a relationship.”

Researchers reviewed more than 1,000 existing scientific studies focusing on the media's role in encouraging or discouraging tobacco use. The conclusions singled out advertising/marketing as well as movies as likely influences on youth smoking.

Titled “The Role of the Media in Promoting and Reducing Tobacco Use,” the report contains “definitive conclusions that a) tobacco advertising and promotion are causally related to increased tobacco use, and b) exposure to depictions of smoking in movies is causally related to youth smoking initiation,” according to an NCI announcement.

The document describes cigarette smoking as “pervasive in movies, occurring in three-quarters or more of contemporary box office hits; identifiable cigarette brands appear in about one-third of movies.”

With regard to films, the chief recommendation made in the report is that “anti-tobacco advertisements” should be included before feature films “to partially counter the impact of tobacco portrayals in movies.”

Last month, the Entertainment Industry Foundation, which includes the six major studios, announced plans to start placing antismoking public service announcements on all DVDs of movies with scenes of smoking. Last year, the Motion Picture Assn. of America began to include smoking as a factor in deciding movie ratings.