New Report Shows Work is Not Finished in Addressing Smoking in Movies Aimed at Youth
LOS ANGELES – The World Health Organization (WHO) released a new report Smoke-free movies: From evidence to action (third edition). The report highlights that smoking in youth-oriented movies continues to be widespread and has a powerful pro-tobacco influence on adolescents.
The report reviews a large body of research indicating that depiction of smoking in films influences many teens to initiate smoking. This research also led the U.S. Surgeon to conclude that smoking in films causes young people to start smoking.
Key WHO report findings:
An analysis of more than 1,800 feature films, accounting for 95% of all ticket sales in the U.S. between 2002 and 2014, found that smoking appeared in 60% of films rated PG-13 and 25% of films rated G or PG.
Although there was a decrease in tobacco depictions in films between 2005 and 2014, films in 2013- 14 delivered an estimated 3.1 billion in-cinema tobacco impressions to U.S. adolescents, including 46% from PG-13 films.
Hollywood needs to recognize the powerful influence that smoking in movies has on our youth," said Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, MD, MPH, Interim Health Officer for Los Angeles County. “Ninety percent of smokers first try tobacco before the age of 18. Eliminating tobacco use in youth-rated movies is critical in our efforts to reduce the number of young people who start smoking."
The Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) has not changed their ratings to reflect on-going tobacco use that still appears in films. The WHO recommendations encourage the MPAA to adopt four policies:
1. Rating new movies that show tobacco use "R";
2. Certification that there were no pay-offs for using or displaying tobacco;
3. No tobacco brand identification; and,
4. Strong anti-smoking ads before movies with smoking.
In Los Angeles County, tobacco control and prevention efforts have driven the rate of smoking among high school students down to 6.7%, from a high of 26.5% in 1997. Despite this success, pro-tobacco influences, including the depiction of smoking in popular films, continue to entice young people to experiment with tobacco use. For example, a 2013 survey of 9th graders in the Los Angeles Unified School District found that 28% had reported already having tried cigarettes.
“We have an obligation to protect our children,” said Cynthia Harding, MPH, Interim Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “One in five deaths in the United States can be attributed to smoking. The stakes are high. I urge the MPAA and international film boards to take action to help us protect our children and youth from exposures to smoking in films.”
The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health.
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