Movies: Big Risk Factor for Teens!
By Dick Rolfe, CEO - The Dove
in movies is a risk factor for smoking initiation among
US adolescents. Limiting exposure of young adolescents
to movie smoking could have important public health
implications." So says the American Academy of
"Our results provide
strong evidence that viewing smoking in movies promotes
smoking initiation among adolescents," concludes the
Department of Pediatrics, Dartmouth Medical School.
What could have caused
these two worthy medical organizations to offer such
"biased" findings…especially since the experts in
Hollywood have proclaimed for years that anti-social
portrayals in movies don’t impact the behavior in
audience members in the slightest? Any filmmaker will
tell you categorically that social conduct influences
movie content, not the other way around.
The latest study, reported
in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine,
suggests that the influence of movies may undo some of
the positive effects of team sports.
Among the more than
2,000 9 to 14-year-olds researchers followed for seven
years, those who were not involved in team sports as
teens were twice as likely to smoke.
However, when the
researchers looked at participants' exposure to smoking
in the movies, they found evidence of media influences
among all teenagers, whether they played sports or not.
The bottom line for
parents is that although sports can decrease the odds
their kids will smoke, media images still have a strong
impact, according to Dr. Anna M. Adachi-Mejia and
colleagues at Dartmouth Medical School.
after considering other factors known to influence
smoking, the study found that adolescents with the
highest exposure to movie smoking were 2.6 times more
likely to try it compared to those with the lowest
The November issue of
Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of
Pediatrics reported that, according to a study paid for
by the National Cancer Institute, about 10 percent of
all adolescents had tried smoking. However, 38 out of
every 100 adolescents who tried smoking did so because
they saw smoking portrayed in movies.
push to give an "R" rating to all movies that depict
Every year, nearly 400,000 kids start smoking due to the
influence of movies. The finding was highlighted at this
week's meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics,
held Oct. 7-10 in Atlanta.
accounting for factors linked to smoking behavior and
movie-going frequency, they find that kids who see the
most onscreen smoking are more than 2.5 times more
likely to start smoking than kids who see the least
numbers are striking. “Kids who watched very few movies
hardly smoked at all. But among the 5% of kids who saw
the most onscreen smoking, 40% had started smoking
less smoking in movies than there used to be. But this
is mostly due to less smoking in movies already rated
"R" or higher. In youth-rated movies, there's been no
-- backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics --
strongly urges the film industry to adopt four rules
proposed by the University of California, San Francisco
that portray smoking should be rated "R."
should certify that they received nothing of value
from anyone in exchange for portraying tobacco use
or tobacco products.
should run strong antismoking ads before any film
that portrays smoking or tobacco products.
should ban the display of any brand of tobacco.
How does it happen that
teens are so easily influenced by actors on the big
screen? "Part of the reason that exposure to movie
smoking has such a considerable impact on adolescent
smoking is because it is a very strong social influence
on kids ages 10-14," said James Sargent, a pediatrics
professor at the school and lead author of the study.
What impact does good
parenting and teaching good values in the home have
compared with exposure to smoking in the movies?
"Because movie exposure to smoking is so pervasive, its
impact on this age group outweighs whether peers or
parents smoke, or whether the child is involved in other
extracurricular activities, like sports," replies
Sargent. He concludes, "No child is immune to the
influence of smoking in movies."
What other ways do
movies influence behavior?
If this is true of
smoking, what does it say about the movies’ impact on
other social behaviors, like premarital sex, or drug and
alcohol use? There are a myriad of studies that draw
parallels between the frequency of exposure to such
behavior in movies and similar behavior exhibited in the
lives of adolescents and teenagers.
A desire to belong is
one of the primary motivators on their social needs
list. We have only to look back to our own youthful days
and remember the importance we placed on clothing
trends, popular hangouts, and winning approval from the
As adults, we must face
the fact that our children are influenced by many
factors outside the home. It’s not enough to teach good
values. It is also important to discourage exposure to
bad behavior in movies and television programs where
consequences like cancer, and drug, alcohol or tobacco
addiction are rarely, if ever, shown. One way is to
guide and monitor their movie attendance.
Humorist Erma Bombeck
once offered some practical advice when she said, "I
would never allow someone in my television set that I
wouldn’t invite into my home.
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