Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Learning to Smoke (and other things) from the Movies

This just in...what you see affects what you do.

Remember those days of Hollywood's black and white films where smoking was so common, even glamorized? Well, things haven't changed much. A new study of 532 relatively current flicks reveals that cigarette smoking is featured in 74% of them.

Furthermore, the authors of this new study (published in November's Pediatrics) have determined that smoking depicted in the movies is a primary reason children ages 10 to 14 try cigarettes. Hardly a surprise. However, the thoroughness of the study and its overwhelming evidence is causing more of a stir than usual. James Sargent, a professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School, who was one of the many researchers who conducted the study, explained that they interviewed more than 6,500 children across the country and considered 21 other factors that influence young people's smoking, such as television viewing and parental permissiveness.

The results? Those who viewed the most tobacco use (especially in the movies and videos they watched) were more than two and a half times as likely to start smoking as children who saw the least. That means some 38% of young smokers started lighting up due primarily to the puffing film characters they saw on the silver screen.

This is bad news, no doubt about it, because cancer caused by cigarette smoking remains such an ugly (and unnecessary) way to die. But here's another point to ponder -- If young lungs are corrupted by cigarette smoke taken in because of the influence of movies, how much more susceptible are they to the corruption of their morals as they view Hollywood's parade of meaningless violence, sexual promiscuity, blasphemy, disdain for authority, leftist politics, and so on?

If you're in a mood to check the smoking study further, you'll find the article in Pediatrics Vol. 116 No. 5 [November 2005]. There's also an abstract right here and a USA Today story about the study here.