A new study has found that children participation in team sports have a lower probability of smoking but it can't compete with the powerful influence of smoking in movies.
Movies can shape popular taste and behaviour, from clothing to cultural habits; other studies have found that seeing smoking in movies increases the chances that children will light up.
Researchers say that as many as 30 percent to 50 percent of adolescent smokers attribute their smoking to seeing it in films.
"Movie smoking exposure appears to increase the risk of smoking initiation by enhancing adolescents' perceived benefits of smoking and making them more susceptible to peer influences," the authors said.
For the study, Adachi-Mejia's team collected data on 2,048 children, first in 1999 and again in 2007. Smoking exposure in movies was assessed when the children were 9 to 14 years old, and participation in team sports was assessed when the same youths were 16 to 21.
At follow-up, 17.2 percent of the individuals were smokers. Those who said they saw the most movies with smoking when they were aged 9 to 14 were much more likely to be smokers compared with those who saw the fewest movies with smoking at an early age, the researchers found.
Although team sports non-participants were twice as likely to become established smokers as sports participants, "in both team sports participants and non-participants, the proportion of established smokers increased from lowest to highest levels of movie smoking exposure by the same amount, 19.3 percent."
"Compared with the other respondents, established smokers were significantly more likely to be male, be older, have parents with lower levels of education, have a higher proportion of close friends who smoke, have parents who smoke, report lower school performance, have higher levels of sensation seeking and rebelliousness and be less likely to be enrolled in school at the time of follow-up," the authors said.
"In summary, this study supports the benefits of youth participation in team sports, which appears to protect against established smoking even in the face of movie smoking exposure. However, movie smoking exposure increases the risk of established smoking among both team sports participants and non-participants," the authors added.
The study has been published in the July issue of Archives of Paediatrics' and Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.