Limiting adolescents' exposure to R-rated movies may help prevent early use of alcohol and tobacco

PHILADELPHIA -- (February 14, 2002) Adolescents with parental limits on watching R-rated movies were three times less likely to report that they had tried smoking or drinking than children with no limits on watching R-rated films, according to a new study.

Researchers surveyed 4,544 New Hampshire and Vermont students in grades 5 through 8 (ages 10 to 14). Of children with no parental restrictions on viewing R-rated films, 35 percent had tried smoking and 46 percent had tried alcohol. Of those with complete restrictions on viewing R-rated films, two percent had tried smoking and four percent had tried alcohol.

The findings, which appear in the January/February 2002 issue of Effective Clinical Practice, suggest that parental limits on children watching R-rated movies may help prevent early use of alcohol and tobacco. These findings held consistently across all grade levels and regardless of parenting characteristics such as maternal supervision and parental disapproval of adolescent smoking.

Lead author Madeline A. Dalton, Ph.D., of Dartmouth Medical School, said, "This study comes as a surprise to most parents, even those who do restrict what their children watch. Parents are more likely to be concerned about the amount of sex or violence in movies. Most don't even think about how much smoking and drinking there is in movies and whether it could influence their child's behavior. Hopefully, this study will prompt them to think about it."

The study, "Relationship between Parental Restrictions on Movies and Adolescent Use of Tobacco and Alcohol," found that although 90 percent of the students were younger than 14 years of age, only 16 percent reported they were never allowed to watch R-rated movies.

An editorial says the movie rating system should consider whether characters smoke ("Rate Movies with Smoking 'R'," p. 31). The interim editors discuss the controversy in an editorial, "Smoke-Free Movies: Sense or Censorship?," on

Contact: Lynda Teer
American College of Physicians

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