Depictions of smoking in movies are on the wane


A number of studies have established that kids who witness smoking -- either at home, on television or in the movies -- are more likely to take up smoking. That’s why many public-health and anti-smoking groups have sought to reduce images of smoking on TV and in movies. Their efforts appear to be working.

A study released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that, after a peak in 2005, the number of onscreen smoking depictions in U.S. movies declined 51%. Still, almost half of the 10 top-grossing movies in 2009 contained tobacco imagery, including 54% of PG-13 movies. The study, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, was lead by Stanton Glantz of UC San Francisco.

Several major studies have adopted policies to monitor and curb smoking content in youth-rated movies. Last year, according to the study, Paramount scored a first by having zero depictions of tobacco use in its youth-rated movies. But more needs to be done to pry kids’ eyes off smokers, say the study authors. One of the proposals is to assign R ratings to any movie that portrays smoking.

“An R rating policy would create an economic incentive for producers to leave smoking out of movies that are marketed to youths. A 2005 study concluded that the return on investment for youth-rated movies was 70%, compared with 29% for R-rated movies,” the authors wrote.

-- Shari Roan / Los Angeles Times

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