Exposure to smoking in movies appears to be associated with adolescents’ risk of becoming established smokers who have used at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetimes, according to a report in the September issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Previous studies have found that more exposure to movie smoking increases teens’ risk of starting to smoke, according to background information in the article. “However, not all adolescents who try smoking go on to become dependent smokers; half of high school seniors have tried smoking at some time, but only 7 percent are current daily smokers of half a pack or more,” the authors write. “Little is known about the factors that discriminate adolescents who progress to dependent smoking from those who do not.”
James D. Sargent, M.D., of
At the beginning of the study, 5,637 (90 percent) of the teens had never smoked, while 33 (0.5 percent) had smoked more than 100 cigarettes. By the two-year follow-up survey, 125 of the participants had become established smokers. Adolescents who were below the midpoint of movie smoking exposure were less likely than teens that were above the midpoint to have smoked more than 100 cigarettes. The association remained significant after the researchers considered other factors related to teen smoking, including age, smoking by a parent or friend and sensation-seeking qualities.
The exact mechanism for this link is unclear, the authors note. “The context of current theory and research suggests the most plausible explanation is that frequent exposure to smoking cues in movies leads to more positive expectancies about effects of smoking, more favorable perceptions of smokers and a greater tendency to affiliate with teens who smoke, all factors that increase risk for smoking,” they write.
“Combined with previous findings showing that young persons who view more smoking in movies are at increased risk for initiating cigarette smoking, the present findings heighten concern about the public health implications of movie-smoking exposure by linking it with an outcome that predicts smoking-related morbidity and mortality in the future,” the authors conclude.
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(9):849-856