Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Gandalf smokes? I should do that too!

One recent study found that children who watch movies in which characters relentlessly consume cigarettes will more likely start smoking at young age. How to prevent this?

Teenagers who watch movies in which actors smoke have greater probability to start smoking by themselves. This has been proved with a recent study in the UK. The researchers came to this information by performing a research on 5000 fifteen-year-olds. They are now suggesting that this research should result with changes in the movie "classification", so that those who are below 18 are not exposed to scenes in which movie characters smoke.

Researchers from Bristol University say that there is a need for more precautions regarding this issue. But, members of anti-smoking campaigns claim that this is not proven to be true and that this whole conundrum is plain nonsense. They say that there is no evidence that what one sees in the cinema or on DVD affects on his decision whether to smoke or not.

The study addressed the potential impact of some of the 366 movies made in America between the 2001 and 2005, including movies like "Spiderman," "Bridget Jones" and "The Matrix", which all have scenes of smoking. Adolescents who have seen the majority of movies in which there are scenes of smoking have 73% more chances to try cigarettes by themselves than those who were less exposed to the influence of such movies. And 50% of them have probably already started smoking. 

Having in mind that the views on smoking are also greatly influenced by whether parents or counterparts are smoking, the researchers also collected data regarding even these types of information from adolescents. The results showed that those who do not have someone who smokes close by, are having 32% more chances of already consuming cigarettes than those who did not watch movies with the controversial scenes. 

We saw a linear relationship between adolescent smoking and the number of films they had seen depicting smoking.” – says Dr Andrea Waylen, who led the research. “More than half of the films shown in the UK that contain smoking are rated UK15 or below, so children and young teenagers are clearly exposed.

She adds that it is necessary to introduce a ban on smoking scenes in movies for children under 18 in Britain, and that such thing would reduce the rate of smoking among young people.

UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies sent a letter to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), seeking from them to ban such scenes in movies for kids below 18, in order to protect them from "particularly harmful imagery".

According to the rules that are used for the evaluation of the movies, both universal and those related to parental control, there is a list of potentially dangerous behaviors which young children are likely to copy. They include drug misuse but not cigarette smoking. 

David Cooke, director of the BBFC, said that smoking is a major public health issue and that they had consulted the public very extensively on it in 2005 and 2009.

Clear expectation is that we should be vigilant, sensible and proportionate in how we deal with the issue. There is, however, no public support for automatically classifying, for instance, a PG film at 18 just because it happens to contain a scene of smoking.” - says Cooke.

Simon Clark, director of the smokers' group Forest, said that idea that films need to be reclassified in order to create a utopian, smoke-free world for older children is not only patronising, but it is completely unnecessary.

Today you would be hard-pressed to find a leading character who smokes in any top 10 box office movie. What next? Should government reclassify films that feature fat people as well in case they are bad role models? We go to the cinema to escape from the nanny state. The tobacco control industry should butt out and take its authoritarian agenda elsewhere.”

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