Restricting R-movies linked to decreased teen smoking, drinking

HANOVER, NH Researchers from the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Dartmouth Medical School and Dartmouth College have identified a new strategy for parents who dont want their children to smoke or drink: dont let them watch R-rated movies.

A new paper in the January/February 2002 issue of Effective Clinical Practice states that children who are not restricted from watching R-rated movies are three times more likely to smoke or drink alcohol compared to those who are never allowed to watch them.

"Most parents underestimate the impact movies have on their children. This study clearly shows that adolescents are much more likely to smoke or drink if their parents let them watch R-rated movies," said Madeline Dalton, the lead author on this paper and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School. Dalton said that restricting R movies is associated with lower rates of adolescent alcohol and tobacco use, regardless of how strict parents are in other ways.

The study found that while one third of the children with unrestricted viewing privileges had tried smoking, only two percent of those who were never allowed to watch R movies had tried it. The figures are similar for trying alcohol. Forty-six percent of the kids with no movie restrictions had tried alcohol, while four percent of those with complete restrictions had tried it.

As videos, DVDs and cable and satellite television become more and more accessible, its much easier for children to watch R-rated movies. The researchers surveyed about 4,500 students in grades five through eight in New Hampshire and Vermont. Although 90 percent of the students surveyed were younger than 14 years old, only 16 percent said they were never allowed to watch R-rated movies.

The movie rating system, in place since 1968, provides parents with information to help determine whether their children should see a movie. The rating

Contact: Sue Knapp
Dartmouth College

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