Tag Archives: tobacco smoking

Smoking Scenes in Youth-Rated Movies Decline, But More Work Remains

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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.

The authors used data from the Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down! project, which counts occurrences of tobacco incidents in U.S. top-grossing movies each year, to update their 2010 report.

By Naseem S. Miller (@ReportingBack)

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Filed under Family Medicine, Health Policy, IMNG, Internal Medicine, Primary care

In the Developing World, Diseases Defy Definition

Before last week, I thought I knew the definition of “noncommunicable disease.” Then I attended “The Long Tail of Global Health Equity: Tackling the Endemic Non-Communicable Diseases of the Bottom Billion.”

 Held on the campus of Harvard Medical School in Boston March 2nd and 3rd, the 2-day conference was sponsored by Partners In Health, an international nonprofit organization that conducts research, does advocacy, and provides direct health care services for people living in poverty around the world. The “Bottom Billion” of the meeting’s title refers to the world’s poorest people living on less than $1 per day.

 In a 2008-2013 action plan, the World Health Organization refers to “the four noncommunicable diseases – cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers and chronic respiratory diseases and the four shared risk factors – tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diets and the harmful use of alcohol.” Together, these conditions account for approximately 60% of all global deaths, of which 80% occur in low- and middle-income countries. 

A cancer patient in Rwanda receives chemotherapy as her husband and physician discuss her treatment / Photo courtesy of Partners In Health

But as I learned at the conference, among the Bottom Billion, rheumatic heart disease is often the result of an untreated streptococcal infection early in life, diabetes is frequently associated with malnutrition rather than over-nourishment, and cervical cancer due to human papillomavirus is far more common than in the developed world, where women routinely receive PAP screenings and a vaccine can now also prevent the infection.   

And most startling to me: Among the world’s poorest, smoking is not the most common cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Cooking with biomass fuels is.   

Individually, these and other so-called “endemic NCDs” including Burkitt’s lymphoma, sickle cell disease, and tropical diseases are far less common than those within the WHO’s “four-by-four” definition. But together, that “long tail” of chronic conditions contributes to a great deal of suffering. 

In May 2010, the United Nations announced that it would hold a high-level meeting on NCDs in 2011, now set for September 19-20. It will be only the 29th such meeting that the UN has ever held (formerly called “special sessions“), and just the second pertaining specifically to a health issue. The first one, the 2001 Summit on HIV/AIDS, is credited with focusing global attention and obtaining public and private funding for that cause. 

Speakers at the Partners In Health meeting stressed that the NCD movement should not be undertaken as an “us against them” competition with infectious disease for scarce resources. In a statement that will be presented to the heads of government at the UN summit, the group called instead for “strengthening and adjusting health systems to address the prevention, treatment, and care of NCDs, particularly at the primary health care level.”

—Miriam E. Tucker (@MiriamETucker on Twitter)

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