Stub it out! Calls to change movie ratings as link is revealed between screen smoking and teens taking up the habit

By Pam Magwaza
02 August 2017

Could watching smokers in movies lead your teenager to wanting to smoke?

Remember those impossible glamorous cigarette ads that used to be shown at the movies?

Smoking was depicted as a glamorous activity done by impossibly gorgeous people doing impossibly cool stuff. Then the authorities cracked down and cigarette advertising in cinemas was banned. But it seems now movies themselves are promoting the bad habit – and it’s leading to fears that young people will be tempted to start smoking after seeing the habit made cool on the big screen.

More and more movies aimed at teens or young adults include characters who smoke. They’re often depicted as the “cool kids” -- which according to the study may lead teenagers to smoke.

A recent study done published by the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has found the link between tobacco use in popular movies and the growing number of underage teenagers smoking tobacco.

The study also showed an 80% increase in the use of cigarettes in movies between the years 2015 and 2016.

Film historian Craig Detweiler says, "There are so many iconic images of cool associated with smoking that it’s a hard habit for actors and filmmakers to break."

"Tension arises because filmmakers are often going for a particular look or feel. Smoke is very photogenic, and actors are always looking for something to do with their hands."

Health advocates in America are advocating that the film rating system in movies be revised so that younger viewers are not exposed to films that depict smoking.

In 1993 all advertisement, sponsorship, and promotion for tobacco in South Africa was banned under the Tobacco Products Control Act 83 of 1993. This, however, does not ban the use of tobacco in films and TV shows.

Another study released in 2012 also stated that young people who watch movies with have cigarette smoking characters -- regardless of the age restriction of the film -- are more likely to begin smoking themselves.

Sources: Chicago Tribune, Newsweek,KCRA

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