For the fifth year in a row, the number of smoking scenes in major youth-rated movies has declined, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, the percentage of top-grossing movies with no tobacco incidents were the highest in 2010 compared with the last 20 years.
The report, Smoking in Top-Grossing Movies – United States 2010, showed that the number of onscreen tobacco incidents in youth-rated movies (G, PG, or PG-13) dropped from 2,093 in 2005 to 595 in 2010. That’s almost a 72% decrease.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that one in five high school students still smoke and “there’s still a substantial amount of smoking in youth-related films,” said Stanton A. Glantz, Ph.D., one of the study authors and director of Smoke Free Movies, in a news conference.
Several studies have indicated that smoking in movies increases the odds smoking initiation among youth.
Physicians ought to be educating parents that this is a real problem and that they should not let their youth watch movies that have smoking in them, said Dr. Glantz in a phone interview. His Web site lists the smoking status of top-grossing movies every week.
The report is also the first to look at the impact of policy. Three of the six major studios which have adopted a smoking-reduction policies between 2004 and 2007 had lowered their on-screen smoking incidents much more than those studios with no policy in place.
“The data find that three major movie studios (Comcast/Universal, Disney and Time Warner/Warner Bros.) have almost eliminated tobacco from their youth-rated movies, reducing the number of tobacco incidents per film (G/PG/PG13) by 96 percent. In contrast, studios without policies as well as independent companies (News Corporation/Twentieth Century Fox, Sony/Columbia/Screen Gems and Viacom/Paramount) reduced tobacco depictions in youth-rated movies by an average of only 42 percent over the same period,” according to a news release by the Legacy for Longer Healthier Lives, which hosted a news conference following the report’s release.
The authors admit that implementation of policy won’t affect youths exposure to older movies and that youths do watch R-rated movies, but they recommend several solutions.
They suggest anti-tobacco ads before the movies that have smoking scenes. They also recommend expanding the R rating to include movies with smoking as one way to reduce adolescent exposure to on-screen smoking.
“And if you want to get politically involved,” said Dr. Glantz, “work with your state to stop subsidizing movies with smoking in them.” Almost all states offer movie producers subsidies in the form of tax credit or cash rebates to attract movie production to their states, according to the CDC report. “The 15 states subsidizing top-grossing movies with tobacco incidents spent more on these productions in 2010 ($288 million) than they budgeted for their state tobacco-control programs in 2011 ($280 million),” the authors write.
By Naseem S. Miller (@ReportingBack)