Movies are a powerful socializing force for contemporary adolescents, shaping views of what is cool, attractive and grown-up, notes lead author James D. Sargent, M.D., of Dartmouth Medical School. With increasing restrictions on public tobacco use, movies have become a key way that adolescents learn about the stylistic elements and social context of tobacco use, he adds.
Previous studies have demonstrated that the adolescents who most frequently view smoking in movies tend to be the heaviest tobacco users. However, this association does not indicate which comes first, the viewing or the smoking.
Sargent and his colleagues tested the idea that more frequent viewing of smoking in movies makes nonsmoking adolescents more receptive to the idea of using tobacco. Their research is documented in the April issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The investigators began by counting the number of times a major or minor character smoked in each of 601 recently released movies. They then identified every student at 15 middle schools in New Hampshire and Vermont who had never smoked tobacco, and gave each one a different, randomly selected list of 50 of the films. Each participant checked off every movie seen on his or her list. The researchers used the results to rank each students overall exposure to smoking in movies.
Each study participant also answered questions that measured his or her vulnerability to starting smoking. A separate questionnaire solicited personal information, such as the students sex, school performance level and family smoking patterns.
The results reveal a strong relationship between viewing tobacco use in movies and more positive attitudes toward smoking among adolescent never-smokers, Sargent reports. High exposure to smoking in movies was
Contact: Stephen Snyder
Center for the Advancement of Health