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

and two years later. At each follow-up point, a new movie list was drafted to include 50 films randomly pulled from the top 100 feature releases and the top 100 video rentals of the past year.

All the movies on the lists were coded for the number of "smoking occurrences" -- instances in which major, minor or tangential characters used or handled tobacco for the first time in a new scene.

While 21 percent of the smoking occurrences were found in "R" movies, slightly more than 60 percent were found in "PG-13" movies, and almost 19 percent were found in "G" or "PG" films, the researchers said.

Included among the "G-rated" movies that had smoking scenes were 102 Dalmations, Tarzan and Muppets from Space. "PG" films on the list that had smoking scenes were George of the Jungle, Atlantis: The Lost Empire and The Rainmaker.

By the third survey, almost 10 percent of the kids had started to smoke, and on average had viewed almost 37 films. That translated into an average exposure to almost 150 smoking occurrences.

After accounting for other factors that might influence behavior, the researchers concluded that 35 percent of smoking initiation among the children was directly attributable to seeing smoking scenes on the screen.

Children who may have seen smoking scenes at a preschool age were as likely to pick up a cigarette as those who had seen such scenes at a later age, Titus-Ernstoff said.

"What this means for parents is that they need to pay more attention to what children are watching," Titus-Ernstoff said. "I think they tend to worry more about sex, violence and bad language. But bad language never killed anybody. And maybe they need to pay more attention to movies that glamorize smoking or other drug abuse."

"Our finding is that the vast majority of smoking in movies that children are exposed to comes from movies that are youth-rated," she added.
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