That’s a Wrap: Images of Smoking Way Down in Youth Movies

In what can only be viewed as a positive in the fight against tobacco, a new federal report finds that images of smoking in youth-oriented movies have plummeted since 2005.  In movies rated G and PG, the rate of tobacco “incidents” (as the report calls them) fell by over 90 percent (see figure).  Even in PG-13 and R rated movies, rates fell by over 60 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

Smoking in teens and young adults often leads to long-term, and frequently, lifetime smoking habits.  Quitting is possible but difficult for many.  So the best approach for cutting down on smoking rates is to stop smoking before it starts, which means fostering environments and communities that, at a minimum, don’t promote and glamorize tobacco use.

Moves by studios and film makers to limit such images in youth-oriented movies are a great addition to efforts to prevent tobacco use.  If maintained over time, they could help provide real and lasting benefits for the nation’s health.

The figure above shows the number of tobacco incidents in top-grossing movies, by rating, in the United States during 1991-2010. From 2005 to 2010, the total number of tobacco incidents in top-grossing movies decreased 56.0%, from 4,152 to 1,825. The total number of incidents in G or PG movies decreased 93.6%, from 472 to 30, whereas the number in PG-13 movies decreased 65.1%, from 1,621 to 565, and the number in R-rated movies decreased 40.5%, from 2,059 to 1,226 (Source: CDC).

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