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Smoking in movies may push your child to light up, study shows

July 28, 2003


LONDON--Children are nearly three times more likely to try cigarettes if they regularly watch films showing actors smoking, new research shows.

A study published in the medical journal the Lancet found that watching role models smoke was the major influence on more than half of youngsters age 10 to 14 who had experimented with tobacco.

The study says the effect of seeing smoking in films is far greater than that of tobacco advertising, which influences one-third of young smokers.

Over a period of two years, Dr. Madeline Dalton of Dartmouth Medical School studied 2,603 schoolchildren, age 10 to 15, none of whom had smoked beforehand.

"Our results provide strong evidence that viewing smoking in movies promotes smoking initiation among adolescents," she said.

The portrayal of smoking in films has risen in the last decade. A notable recent example was the film version of "Chicago," in which Catherine Zeta-Jones was shown smoking repeatedly. It won Oscars this year for best film and best supporting actress for Zeta-Jones, but it also received the American Lung Foundation's "Hackademy" award for the most scenes of smoking.

In the study, children were asked how many of 50 randomly chosen popular films they had watched. They were also questioned about their background, their attitude toward smoking, the attitudes of their parents and friends, and their school performance. This was followed by interviews one to two years later.

Of the children who had watched a large number of the films, 16 percent had subsequently experimented with cigarettes, compared with only 3 percent of those who seldom watched films.

On average, the children who had seen the most films were 2.71 times more likely to experiment with cigarettes.

The children of nonsmokers were particularly susceptible to the influence of films, with those who had watched the most 4.1 times more likely to smoke than those who watched the fewest.

Sunday Telegraph


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