The more smoking adolescents see
in movies, the more likely they are to start
smoking. The effect is strongest for children
of nonsmokers (blue bars).
3% of adolescent children of nonsmoking
parents who were in the lowest exposure
group (the lowest 25% of exposure) started
to smoke, after accounting for all other
factors that contribute to smoking. The
number of kids who started smoking was 12%
in the highest exposure group (top 25% of
exposure), almost as many as children of
parents who smoked. (Graph courtesy of Dr.
James Sargent, Dartmouth University.)
2003, a research group at the Dartmouth Medical School
Department of Pediatrics substantially strengthened
the case that smoking in the movies causes adolescent
smoking. They conducted a "longitudinal study"
in which they recruited 2603 adolescents (age 10-14)
who had never tried smoking, collected detailed information
about attitudes and other factors that predict smoking,
then followed the adolescents for 13-26 months later
to see who started smoking.
did not just look at who started smoking. They also
took into account other factors that have been linked
to adolescent smoking, including:
grade in school
• friend smoking
• sibling smoking
• parent smoking
• receptivity to tobacco advertising and promotions
• school performance
• sensation-seeking propensity
• self esteem
• parent’s education
• authoritative parenting
• perception of parental disapproval of smoking
Dartmouth scientists then followed them forward in time
for 13-26 months and found that 10% of the kids started
controlling for the effects of all the other factors
they considered, kids who saw the most smoking in movies
were nearly three times as likely to have started smoking
than kids in the lowest exposure group.
was demonstrated in earlier “snapshot” studies,
there is a “dose-response effect:” The more
on screen smoking the kids saw, the more likely they
were to have started to smoke. The existence of this
dose-response relationship not only strengthens the
scientific case, but it also means that steps to reduce
the “dose,” particularly an “R”
rating for smoking in movies, will lead to less teen
effect is stronger in kids of nonsmoking parents than
parents who smoke. Kids of nonsmoking parents in the
most-exposed group are 4.1 times as likely to have started
smoking compared to those in the lowest exposure group.
This effect is substantially stronger than the increase
by “only” 1.6 times among kids of smoking
in the movies accounted for 52% of the kids who started
smoking, a stronger effect than traditional cigarette
2005, the same team of pediatricians, scientists, and
epidemiologists at Darmouth did a followup study using
a national sample of 6500 adolescents to make sure that
the results from the New England study held up nationally.
This large national study showed essentially the same
risks for starting smoking in this national sample as
was observed in New England.
these results nationwide, means that 390,000 kids start
to smoke every year because of the movies, 120,000 of
whom will die as a result.
because half the smoking in movies that kids see is
in youth-rated (G/PG/PG-13) movies, smoking in youth-rated
films accounts for about 200,000 kids a year starting
to smoke, 60,000 of whom will die as a result.
why getting smoking out of youth-rated films (by rating
movies with smoking "R") would be a real life