Health and Lifestyle

The Effect of Onscreen Smoking on the Young

Responsible parents try to provide good examples for their children. However, when it comes to staying away from cigarettes, parents’ efforts may go down the drain because of too much encouragement children see in the movies.

Resent research shows that teenagers tend to look upon movie characters as role models. As such, any actions of your children’s favorite characters have quite a big impact on their behavior in real life. According to the study, images of cool smoking characters on the screen prompt young people to start smoking, too. In fact, this impact turns out so severe that in many cases it overpowers anti-smoking stimuli such as nonsmoking parents and the awareness of health risks of tobacco. The study results show that teenagers who are often exposed to cinematic smoking are as likely to adopt the harmful habit as teenagers whose parents are heavy smokers.

Interestingly, the research involved the data gathered from 17 diverse countries, and despite many differences – cultural, economical, social – the results turn out approximately the same.

For the last decade, several studies have been done on the issue of smoking in movies, and all of them came to a conclusion that such images have a huge impact on people, especially young ones. In fact, researchers claim that onscreen smoking has a more powerful effect than cigarette advertisements, which have been banned or at least seriously restricted by now in most developed countries.

Dr. Glantz, who has created the website Smoke Free Movies, says that moviemakers don’t seem to care about the harm onscreen smoking does to the young. According to a survey done in 2016, the number of movies that have images of smoking characters has increased as compared to a similar survey done in 2010.

Another interesting research was conducted back in the 1990s. Its aim was to look at the difference between smokers on the screen and in real life. As it turned out, characters smoking in movies are often featured cool, powerful and authoritative – even if some of them tend to be villain-like characters. In contrast, a great part of real-life smokers are poor and uneducated people who may have a wide range of issues including mental health ones.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that movies containing images of smoking people should come with an R rating. The fact sheet  published by the organization estimates that if we take smoking out of the screen, it may save 18 percent of young people who will otherwise die of tobacco-related diseases.