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Report from American Academy of Pediatrics on Early Exposure to Movie Smoking

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a report today suggesting that exposure to images of smoking in films early in life influence children’s choice to smoke when they become adolescents. In “Longitudinal Study of Viewing Smoking in Movies and Initiation of Smoking by Children,” researchers at Dartmouth Medical School interviewed children, ages 9 to 12, from 26 schools in New Hampshire and Vermont on what movies they had seen. Results from the baseline interview showed that each child already had seen an average of 37 out of 50 popular movies they were asked about, exposing them to an average of 150 smoking occurrences. About 80 percent of the children’s exposure was due to smoking images portrayed in youth-rated movies. Follow-up surveys assessing new exposure to movie smoking and smoking initiation were then administered to the children at two subsequent one-year intervals. By the second follow-up survey, 9.6 percent of the children had initiated smoking. The results indicated that the baseline measure of movie smoking exposure was as important as exposure measured at follow-up in predicting children’s smoking initiation, suggesting that the process which leads children to initiate smoking begins much earlier than adolescence. Overall, movie smoking may contribute to future tobacco use in at least one-third of elementary school-age children. For more information, contact Linda Titus-Ernstoff, PhD, at 603-653-3696, [email protected] ]

In a related study, “Exposure to Smoking in Internationally Distributed American Movies and Youth Smoking in Germany: A Cross-cultural Cohort Study,” researchers found that smoking in internationally distributed U.S. movies predicted the likelihood that German adolescents would try smoking. The results mirror similar studies linking smoking in movies with U.S. adolescent tobacco use.
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