A review report submitted recently regarding the impact of media and mass communication on smoking has found that teenagers are vulnerable to smoke after visualization of smoking related scenes on movies or televisions. It is also in favor of exclusion of smoking related scenes from movies rated for adolescent audience. It is appropriate to remember at this stage that most smokers would have initiated the habit during adolescence.
"The weight of dozens of studies, after controlling for all other known influences, shows the more smoking that kids see on screen, the more likely they are to smoke. This strong empirical evidence affects hundreds of thousands of families," said Annemarie Charlesworth, lead author and research specialist, University of California.
The current review summarizes the results of nearly 42 studies conducted in the above regard and therefore provides authoritative information. The review appears in the journal Pediatrics, published in December.
The review has also drawn certain conclusions regarding smoking, teenage behaviour and movies in general. The U.S. movies have again been found to exhibit as much smoking as they did in 1950. The balance of smoking has swung toward youth-rated (G/PG/PG-13) films. The negative consequences of smoking are very rarely portrayed in the same. Smoking is generally projected as a manly act in the films that also link it to higher status characters in an unrealistic way. For teen audiences, anti-tobacco spots shown before movies with on-screen smoking countered much of the promotional effect of smoking in the movies.
A direct relationship between watching smoking related scenes and actual smoking exists, with a three fold increased risk of smoking initiation among those who watch it more frequently compared to those who watch the lowest related. In addition, adolescents and teens who were under strict parental guidance regarding watching of R-rated films were less likely to start smoking than those with fewer restrictions.
"This result indicates that lowering exposure by removing smoking from youth-marketed films will reduce the number of kids who start smoking. More than a decade of independent experimental and epidemiological research shows that the tobacco industry was smart, from a marketing point of view, in investing millions of dollars to put smoking on the American screen. The science is in; getting smoking out of youth rated movies is the simplest and least expensive thing that can be done to reduce adolescent smoking", said Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UCSF".
Perhaps, this review settles the controversial debate regarding the ill effects of television viewing amongst advertisement agencies, parents and health care professionals.