At the Cinema – Smoking in cinemas increasing, in contrast to real smoking rates

The incidence of smoking in top grossing movies has increased during the 1990s, and dramatically exceeds real smoking rates, according to a new University of California San Francisco study. After declining over three decades, smoking in movies has returned to levels comparable to those observed in the 1960s, before the issuance of the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health in 1964. The report appears in the new issue of Tobacco Control, a scientific journal published by the British Medical Association. The presentation of smoking in films remains pro-tobacco with only 14 percent of tobacco screen-time presenting adverse social or health effects of tobacco use. The researchers found that in movies from the 1960s, tobacco was used about once for every five minutes of film time. In films from the 1970s and 1980s, tobacco was used about once every 10 to 15 minutes, but in movies from the 1990s, tobacco was used an average of every three to five minutes. “The use of tobacco in films is increasing and is reinforcing misleading images that present smoking as a widespread and socially desirable activity,” according to the authors. These portrayals may encourage teenagers – the major movie audience to smoke. “Films continue to present the smoker as one who is typically white, male, middle class, successful and attractive a movie hero who takes smoking for granted,” the researchers report. “As in tobacco advertising, tobacco use in the movies is associated with youthful vigour, good health, good looks, and personal and professional acceptance.

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