Kids Seeing Less Tobacco, More Booze in Movies

By McCarton Ackerman 05/28/13

Movies now feature far more drinking than smoking compared to 15 years ago, a study finds.

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Leo raises a glass in The Great Gatsby
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Kids these days are far more likely to see movie characters throwing back a cold one than lighting up a cigarette, according to a new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. After analyzing the prevalence of alcohol and tobacco products in 1,400 films that were among the 100 biggest box office hits between 1996-2009, researchers found that on-screen tobacco products have dramatically declined while alcohol products and drinking on screen have increased. During that 14-year period, the appearance of smoking and tobacco products dropped by 42.3% in youth-rated movies and by 85.2% in adult-rated movies, while alcohol product placement increased in youth rated movies from 80 to 145 each year. The scientists credited the decline in on-screen tobacco to the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) in 1998, which forced the tobacco industry to scale back some of its marketing tactics and also fund anti-smoking advocacy groups. The researchers note that the increase in on-screen alcohol prevalence could have "implications for teen drinking." A 2012 analysis from six European countries reported that teens who saw more boozy movie scenes were more likely to binge drink, and though researchers could not confirm that on-screen drinking was directly responsible, they did suggest that teens who watched drinking scenes were more likely to mimic what they saw. And a US study last year found that seeing alcohol consumed in movies "drastically increased" teens' likelihood of binge drinking.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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