Watching movie stars light up on the big screen makes teens more likely to start smoking regardless of what the movie is rated, according to a new study that was published in the journal Pediatrics. Cigarettes in movies encourage teens to take up the habit and researchers found that movies rated PG-13 and R had a considerable impact on teen smoking.
On-screen smoking, regardless of the context, encourages smoking, according to the study. PG-13 movies typically depict cigarette smoking in a visually stimulating way compared to an R rated movie. For example, a PG-13 movie will show someone smoking while reading compared to an R rated movie which might show an after-sex cigarette.
Research suggests that 60 percent of teen exposure to smoking comes from PG-13 movies, and researchers suggest making movies that depict smoking R rated could reduce teen smoking precipitously.
“An R rating for smoking could reduce smoking onset in the United States by 18 percent, an effect similar to making all parents maximally authoritative in their parenting.” Dr. James Sargent, study author and researcher at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, told WebMD.
Researchers surveyed more than 6,500 teens every eight months over a two year period and asked them to list what movies they saw and if they had ever smoked. The researchers then counted the number of smoking occurrences each teen saw based on their movie list.
Researchers found that smoking was rare in G and PG movies and did not contribute to teen smoking. PG-13 movies, however, increased teen smoking by approximately 49 percent. R movies increased the risk by 33 percent.
“This study suggests that it is the depiction of smoking in movies, not other contextual variables, that matter for the onset of youth smoking,” the researchers wrote in the study.