Onscreen Tobacco Use on Rise in Youth-rated Movies

by Sheela Philomena on Sep 29 2012 9:08 AM

 Onscreen Tobacco Use on Rise in Youth-rated Movies
Top box office films continue to depict smoking, states new UCSF study.
In fact, many of the top-grossing films of 2011 with significant amounts of smoking targeted a young audience, among them are the PG-rated cartoon 'Rango' and 'X-Men: First Class,' it said.

"Hollywood has still not fixed this problem," said lead author Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, a professor of medicine at UCSF and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.

"The result of the increase in onscreen smoking in youth-rated films will be more kids starting to smoke and developing tobacco-induced disease," he has warned.

The UCSF study was conducted in conjunction with Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down!, a project of Breathe California of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails, which annually tracks tobacco use in the nation's top-grossing movies.

Altogether, the 134 top-grossing films of 2011 depicted nearly 1,900 tobacco "incidents," the analysis found.

Total tobacco incidents per movie rose seven percent from 2010 to 2011. Among movies rated G, PG or PG-13, smoking incidents per movie soared by 36 percent.

Some of the films that showed the most smoking were "period" movies, such as 'The Help,' 'Midnight in Paris,' and 'Hugo,' which depicted an era when smoking was more common than it is today.

But others were fantasy films, including 'Cowboys 'n' Aliens,' 'Green Hornet' and 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1,' which were aimed squarely at the youth market, noted Glantz.

In stark contrast to prior years, the three major film companies that have adopted policies designed to discourage smoking in their movies depicted just as many tobacco incidents per youth-rated movie as companies that lack tobacco use policies.

Those three studios with tobacco reduction policies are: Time Warner (established policy in 2005), Comcast (2007) and Disney (2004). The three companies with no such policies: Viacom, News Corp. and Sony.

The researchers recommended that health departments to work with policy makers to correlate movie subsidies with public health interests in reducing smoking.

"These results underscore a need for an industry-wide policy to keep smoking out of films marketed to youth," Glantz said.

"An R rating for movies with smoking would give film producers an incentive to keep smoking out of movies aimed at young viewers. The exception would be when the movie clearly reflects the dangers and consequences of tobacco use, or represents the smoking of a real historical figure," he added.

The study will be available in Preventing Chronic Disease Journal, an online, peer-reviewed publication of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.