Movies are just as powerful as traditional tobacco ads, and it is a known fact -- supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the U.S. Surgeon General -- that smoking in movies can cause youth to smoke, nearly 180,000 adolescents each year.
A new study published in the journal Pediatrics takes a deeper look at movie smoking exposure and the impact of different ratings on smoking onset. The results show that smoking in PG-13 and R movies are equivalent in terms of how they increase risk for smoking. But, because youth viewership of PG-13 movies is higher, smoking in PG-13 films accounts for two thirds of the total movie effect on adolescent smoking.
"PG-13 rated movies account for the most of the salient movie smoking adolescents see," said Dr. James Sargent, Professor of Pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School and lead author of the study. "By eliminating smoking from PG-13 movies, an R-rating for movie smoking would cut youth smoking by one-fifth," he said.
"This study demonstrates that it is not some unmeasured characteristic of adolescents drawn to edgy, R-rated movies that accounts for the movie effect on behavior. The simplest explanation is best; kids see realistic depictions of smoking on screen and that makes them want to light up," said Dr. Sargent.