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Watching Movie Stars Light Up May Spur Kids to Smoke

WEDNESDAY, March 14 (HealthDay News) -- The more smoking they see in movies, the more likely young adolescents are to start smoking, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 2,000 public-school students in Vermont and New Hampshire who were not regular smokers at the start of the study.

The students provided information about their background, movies watched and use of tobacco in 1999 when they were aged 9 to 14 (early exposure). Follow-up interviews were conducted in 2006 and 2007 when the participants were aged 16 to 22 (late exposure).

The study authors found that students aged 9 to 14 who saw more smoking scenes in movies were 73 percent more likely to become regular smokers than those who saw fewer smoking scenes.

Students aged 16 to 22 who saw more smoking scenes in movies, however, did not have a greater risk of smoking than those who saw fewer smoking scenes, according to the study published March 14 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

"These results indicate that early exposure to smoking depicted in movies is associated with established smoking in adolescents, whereas late exposure is not," Dr. Brian Primack, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and colleagues said in a journal news release. "These findings suggest that prevention efforts should focus on the reduction of exposure to smoking depicted in movies when children are at a young age."

Although the study uncovered an association between high exposure to smoking scenes in movies at a young age and becoming a regular smoker, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. The authors also noted that the study was limited in that it focused only on white students enrolled in Vermont and New Hampshire public schools.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about kids and smoking.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, news release, March 14, 2012

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