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Study: Tobacco use in top PG-13 movies increases 120% from 2010-’18 :

October 31, 2019

The number of times characters smoked in popular PG-13 movies more than doubled from 2010-’18, a new study found.

The U.S. surgeon general reported in 2012 that children are more likely to start smoking the more they watch characters smoking on screen, so researchers set out to look at how often these exposures occur. They used 2010-’18 data on about 138 of the top-grossing movies each year from the Breathe California Sacramento Region and University of California San Francisco’s Onscreen Tobacco Database.

The data showed 46% of movies in 2018 and 45% of movies in 2010 included tobacco use. Among youth-rated movies (rated G, PG or PG-13), the rate held steady at 31% in both years, according to the study published Thursday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

However, there was a 57% increase in the number of times characters used tobacco across all movies and a 120% increase in incidents in PG-13 movies.

Researchers also found a 233% spike in the number of PG-13 biographical dramas with tobacco use, while the number of fictional PG-13 movies with tobacco use declined.

“These findings suggest that the increasing number of youth-rated biographical dramas with tobacco incidents has negated previous progress made in reducing tobacco incidents in youth-rated fictional movies,” authors wrote.

Most of the characters in these biographical dramas who used tobacco were fictional; therefore, depictions of them smoking were unnecessary, authors said. They suggested limiting incidents to real figures who smoked and giving movies with tobacco use an R rating. AAP policy also calls for R ratings for movies with smoking as well as strong warnings about the harms of tobacco use.

Taking these steps, authors said, “could eliminate tobacco product imagery from youth-rated films, which could further reduce initiation of tobacco product use among U.S. youths.”

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