Tobacco group looks at movies’ influence over teens

by | March 20, 2018 10:15 am

The South Carolina Tobacco-Free Collaborative is asking for the public’s help in “clearing the air in movie theaters.”
“While smoking is not allowed in the theater itself, kids are exposed to images of smoking in six out of 10 PG-13 movies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” said SCTFC Executive Director Megan Hicks. “Giving these movies an R rating would prevent up to 1 million future deaths from smoking-related illness.”
Tobacco advertisements have been illegal in TV and radio for nearly 50 years, Hicks said.
“So, the tobacco industry turned to moviesfor a legal avenue to promote smoking,” she said. “In 2012, a report from (then-U.S. Surgeon General) Dr. Regina Benjamin said that ‘exposure to onscreen smoking in movies causes young people to start smoking.'”
Since that report, the number of children’s movies showing smoking has decreased, Hicks said. However, the usage of tobacco in these movies has increased.
“In fact, for PG-13 rated movies, use of tobacco increased by 43 percent,” Hicks said. “This concentration of tobacco use in fewer films results in kids actually receiving more exposure to tobacco use – 80 percent more.”
Hicks said tobacco exposure isn’t limited to cigarettes. There are depictions of cigars, hookahs and e-cigarettes “all used to show characters as risk-takers or edgy,” she said.
“Adolescents might find that appealing and say, ‘I want to be like that person. I’m going to smoke,'” said Adolescent Communications Institute spokesman Dan Romer.
“More than 2,500 kids (younger than) 18 will become new smokers each year in South Carolina,” said Hicks. “The problem must be approached from every angle possible, including entertainment.”
Hicks said parents can use the following tips to steer their teens away from smoking.
Prevention Starts at Home – Use parental controls to limit movies that feature images of smoking and/or other tobacco use.
Write a Letter to Add a Letter – Encourage R ratings for movies which show tobacco use. Be it the media, theater managers or local/state legislators – all can help create a #SmokeFreeMovies environment.
Vote with Your Dollars – Visit smokefreemovies.ucsf.edu before heading to the theater to make an informed decision about smoking use in top films.

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