A new study conducted by researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania has found that the number of instances of characters smoking on prime time television has dropped over the last few decades, which in turn has been linked with a sharp decline in sales of cigarettes.
The researchers analyzed over 1,830 hours of popular television shows in the United States, from Gunsmoke during the 1950s to House MD during the 2000s, and found that while tobacco use on TV reached its peak at 4.96 instances per hour in 1961, it has fallen down to 0.29 instances per hour in 2010.
There has also been a sharp decline in consumption of tobacco products and the researchers said that one of the reasons could be because of less prime-time smoking.
"TV characters who smoke are likely to trigger the urge to smoke in cigarette users, making it harder for them to quit. Despite the decline since 1961, tobacco use on TV remains a cause for concern. The decline in prime-time TV tobacco use is welcome news, but we need to learn more about tobacco portrayal on cable TV, YouTube, and other popular Internet-based sources", lead researcher Patrick E. Jamieson said.