In the United States smoking is the leading preventable cause of death. Turning off the television could prevent young people from smoking. A new study finds the more an adolescent watches television, the more likely they are to start smoking. The risk of disease increases the earlier in life one starts to smoke. About 5 million adolescents smoke and that number has been increasing since 1990. While tobacco products are banned from advertising on television, smoking is still widespread on television programs.
In California, researchers from Children's Hospital looked at whether adolescents who watched more television were more likely to start smoking. They used information from a national survey that gathered data on television viewing in 1990 and 1993 among youth ages 10 to 15 years. They also examined other risk factors such as weight, ethnicity, IQ, household income level and household structure.
Among the adolescents in the study, smoking increased from about 10 percent in 1990 to more than 15 percent in 1993. Researchers felt that those who watched five hours or more of TV per day were nearly six times more likely to start smoking than those who watched less than two hours a day. Results also show those who watched four to five hours of television a day were more than five times more likely to start smoking than those who watched less than two hours of television a day.
Researchers say their study clearly shows television viewing is associated with smoking among young people. They say this suggests that frequent positive portrayals of smoking on television could be an effective indirect method of tobacco promotion. They say these results should alert parents, educators and health professionals to the idea that discouraging television viewing could be an effective strategy to reduce the incidence of smoking.