Federal Government Concludes Media and Movies Influence Youth Smoking

Thursday, August 21, 2008 General News
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Statement From Dr. Cheryl Healton, President and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation(R)

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A comprehensive report released today from the National Cancer Institute - the leading federal agency on cancer research - provides the government's strongest conclusion to date on the media's powerful and causal effect on tobacco use. The report, Monograph 19 - The Role of the Media in Promoting and Reducing Tobacco Use, concluded what we in public health have known for many years: depictions of smoking in movies and tobacco marketing promote youth smoking. These facts are nonetheless illuminating because they are now recognized for the first time as fact by our federal government.

The report provides the ammunition to tobacco control advocates around the world who are fighting to keep movies smoke-free. While the entertainment industry has taken positive steps to respond to the growing international Smoke-Free Movies movement, there is still some skepticism on the part of many influencers in the entertainment industry as to the magnitude of the effect movie smoking has on youth smoking initiation. The fact that the federal government in this report is pointing out a causal link should provide impetus for decision-makers to take the bold step to remove smoking from youth-rated films, once and for all.

The report also lends further credibility to existing media campaigns that have been proven to curb youth smoking, such as the foundation's award-winning truth(R) campaign. In its first two years, truth(R) was credited with 22 percent of the decline in youth smoking, but the annual budget for truth(R) is less than the $36 million our competitors in the tobacco industry spend in just 24 hours to market their deadly products to consumers in the U.S.

Obviously, in a rapidly changing digital landscape, understanding the role of media in reducing or promoting tobacco use is critically important as we continue working to fight the tobacco epidemic. With limited resources, the truth(R) campaign is reaching teens from big cities to rural towns in ways we didn't imagine 10 years ago. Youth get a dose of truth(R) on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, on the road at popular teen concerts throughout the summer and through ads on television and in theaters prior to movies.

The foundation applauds the editors of Monograph 19 for analyzing the impact of media campaigns and strategies in tobacco control, which provides a blueprint for how to use the media to help end the tobacco epidemic. This report begins the important process of better understanding how the power of the mass media is used to influence tobacco use -- especially among those who are most vulnerable, including youth, to whom the tobacco industry has disproportionately marketed its products.

Despite considerable success over the past decade in tobacco control, tobacco use still accounts for nearly one-third of cancer deaths worldwide, and tobacco-attributable mortality is predicted to increase in the coming decades if current smoking patterns continue. If this trend is to be reversed, an in-depth understanding of the media's power for both tobacco control and tobacco promotion must inform the debate and guide the way to effective policy changes.

The American Legacy Foundation(R) is dedicated to building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit. Located in Washington, D.C., the foundation develops programs that address the health effects of tobacco use, especially among vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the toll of tobacco, through grants, technical assistance and training, partnerships, youth activism, and counter-marketing and grassroots marketing campaigns. The foundation's programs include truth(R), a national

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