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Smoking in Movies Linked to Kids Lighting Up
Date:1/8/2008

Many youth-rated films show smoking scenes, study says, and that early exposure influences young people to start the habit

TUESDAY, Jan. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Young people who start smoking may be influenced to do so by movies they saw in early childhood, new research suggests.

What's more, the study found that almost 80 percent of the exposure to smoking scenes in movies came through films rated "G," "PG" and "PG-13."

"Movies seen at the youngest ages had as much influence over later smoking behavior as the movies that children had seen recently," said study author Linda Titus-Ernstoff, a pediatrics professor at Dartmouth Medical School.

"And I'm increasingly convinced that this association between movie-smoking exposure and smoking initiation is real," she added. "That's to say, causal. It is quite improbable that the association we see is due to some other influence, some other characteristic inherent in children or parental behavior. The relationship is clearly between movie-smoking and smoking initiation."

The findings are published in the January issue of Pediatrics.

To gauge the impact of movie smoking on young people, Titus-Ernstoff and her colleagues focused on more than 2,200 boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 12 who were enrolled in grades four through six in 26 elementary schools in New Hampshire and Vermont.

Starting in 2002 and 2003, the researchers conducted interviews with the children, and their parents, to track whether or not the kids had smoked in the past.

The researchers used a list of 50 movies compiled from a larger pool of 550 films drawn from the top 100 box-office hits released over the five-and-a-half years before the study started in 2002. About 40 percent of the films were rated "R," 40 percent "PG-13," 14 percent "PG," and 5 percent "G."

The initial survey of the kids was followed by two more interviews approximately one
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