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.