Despite a ban on tobacco advertising on television, nearly all US children age 12 to 17 years may have been exposed to tobacco use through movie advertisements televised in 2001 to 2002, according to an article in the September issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Tobacco advertising was banned from television in 1971, but tobacco use is still portrayed in a variety of forms on television, including movie advertisements or trailers. “Trailers pair tobacco use with popular movie stars and edgy action shots,” the authors write. “These images translate into positive images of tobacco that are conveyed to a broad audience, including a large population younger than 18 years.” Studies have shown that most movies released in the United States contain images of smoking, including about half of those with PG or G ratings, according to background information in the article. Surveys of children and adolescents indicate that they are more likely to smoke if their favorite movie stars do, and that watching movies in which characters smoke can have an immediate effect on their attitudes toward smoking.
The authors suggest that public health officials call on the movie industry to eliminate depictions of tobacco use in movie trailers, as well as pressure television networks to refuse to air trailers that contain such imagery. Future research should also address other avenues by which young people are exposed to tobacco use on television, the authors conclude.