Less Smoking in Movies: Is it Having a Positive Impact on Kids? Show Notes

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 Host(s): Dr. Bill Maier
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U.S. movie studios have been changing their position on smoking in films, and it seems to be having a positive effect on teens and pre-teens.

The Centers for Disease Control watched a bunch of movies made in 2010 and counted the number of times that characters lit up on screen.

In movies rated G, PG or PG-13, tobacco use occurred 595 times. That may sound like a lot, but the number represents a 72% drop compared to films released in 2005.  

Even more dramatically, depictions of smoking plunged 96% in movies made by Disney, Time Warner, and Comcast. Those companies have explicit policies against depicting smoking in their films.

During the same time film companies were making these changes, tobacco use among middle-schoolers fell from 15% to 8%.  Among high school students, the percentage fell from 34% to 23%.

CDC researcher Ursula Bauer says: "The more you see smoking onscreen, the more likely you are to be open to smoking and to start smoking."

 (We psychologists have a sophisticated clinical term for this: “Monkey see, monkey do").

Bear in mind this was a “correlational” study, so it doesn’t prove cause and effect. There are likely other reasons that teenagers are smoking less these days.

But it’s encouraging to know that America’s motion picture studios are being more responsible when it comes to smoking on-screen.

I’m Bill Maier for family-friendly, commercial free, WBCL.

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