Smoking in movies returns to 1950s levels


Today's movie actors are lighting up as much as their 1950s counterparts, according to researchers who say cigarettes made a dramatic return to the silver screen in the past decade.

In the top-grossing films of the 1950s, there were 10.7 smoking "incidents" -- characters taking a drag, prominently displayed ashtrays or tobacco ads -- per hour of screen time, Stanton A Glantz, Ph.D. and colleagues found. By the early 1980s, smoking had become scarce, appearing only 4.9 times per hour.

Cigarettes have made a comeback, however, beginning in 1989 and steadily increasing their appearances until 2002, when the researchers counted 10.9 smoking incidents per hour of screen time in the top grossing films. Their study appears in the American Journal of Public Health.

"Despite declining tobacco use and increasing public understanding of the dangers of smoking in the real world, smoking in movies has returned to levels observed in 1950, when smoking was nearly twice as prevalent in reality as it was in 2002," Glantz says.

Glantz and colleagues worry that the rise in screen smoking will encourage teens to smoke, since previous studies have shown a link between smoking in the movies and youth smoking habits.

"Particularly with the long shelf life that movies gain through television rebroadcast, videotape and DVD, the pro-tobacco influence of the high smoking levels in recent movies will continue to be a pro-tobacco influence on teenagers for years to come unless remedial action is taken," Glantz warns.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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