Smoking in Films
Your soda and popcorn are empty and the end credits are running on the newest blockbuster to hit theaters. What is on your mind when you leave the movies? Is it the number of times the actors lit up cigarettes during the two-hour flick? While you probably did not consciously notice all the smoke, the fact is that there were teenagers watching the movie that may now take up the habit because of what they saw on the screen. More and more, smoking in movies is being identified as a leading cause of teen smoking. Many filmmakers are using smoking in movies to make actors look more desirable or rebellious. This tactic used by filmmakers is imprinting the wrong image in the minds of impressionable teenagers.
Tobacco use in film and in television is identified as one of the influential causes for teenage smoking (Sargent). Tobacco use in movies and in television is portrayed as fun, exciting, sexy, and rebellious and connected to wealth and power, it reinforces common advertising themes of the tobacco industry. While glamorizing tobacco may not be the intent of the entertainment industry, the result is that such portrayal encourages tobacco use among young people. Studies undertaken found that youth had a higher risk of smoking initiation as their exposure to movie smoking increased. In addition the youth that were exposed the most to movie smoking were at a higher risk (Increasing Evidence). Conversely, when anti-tobacco messages are included in movies or on television, it has just the opposite impact and may discourage young people from starting to smoke (Pechmann). Extensive tobacco use in movies and television suggests that smoking is more common in society then it actually is. When tobacco use is viewed as a societal norm, it implies that smoking is acceptable and is another factor on encouraging young people to use tobacco.
Star power seems to sell movies, the more popular the actor, the more people likely to see the movie and the higher the box office returns. Star power can also sell tobacco use. When leading actors light up or make anti-tobacco statements, it sends a powerful message to young people about tobacco use (Tickle). According to a new study, adolescents whose favorite movie stars smoke on-screen are significantly more likely to be smokers themselves and to have a more acceptable attitude toward smoking than adolescents who prefer non-smoking stars (Sargent). These findings are not surprising because it is widely known that adolescents look up to movie stars as role models. Adolescents watch a lot of movies and seem to desire what they see on the screen, so tobacco use in movies can also be influential to society.
Prior research has shown that social influences, such as family and peer smoking, and tobacco advertising, are key determinants of smoking in adolescents. Research that is more recent has revealed that smoking in the entertainment industry, such as celebrities who smoke, also have an impact on...