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Location: Sunday 03 Aug 2003 > National news

Screen smoking turns kids on to puffing

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

A study published in The Lancet found that watching role models smoke was the major influence on more than half of those aged between 10 and 14 years who had used tobacco.

The findings prompted calls from the British Medical Association for curbs on smoking scenes, and for these films to carry adult classifications.

The portrayal of smoking in films has risen in the past decade. A recent example was the film version of Chicago, in which Catherine Zeta-Jones was shown smoking repeatedly.

The research showed that, of the children who watched a large number of films, 16% had subsequently used cigarettes, compared with only 3% of those who seldom watched films.

In the past, tobacco companies have paid stars to smoke in films. Philip Morris supplied cigarettes to films in the 1970s and 1980s, including the popular PG-rated films Grease and The Muppet Movie , according to leaked internal company papers.

- The Telegraph, London

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