Survey: Most think film smoking sways kids


WASHINGTON -- The vast majority of Americans think that more kids are likely to take up smoking if they see actors in the movies fire up a butt, according to a new survey by the American Medical Assn.

According to the AMA study, 81% of American adults think that smoking in the movies will encourage teens to smoke and 70% think onscreen smoking should automatically garner a film an R rating. Sixty% of respondents want to see tobacco taken out of the movies entirely.

"This research is our latest effort to bring national attention to the harmful effects that smoking in movies has on our youth," AMA alliance president Nita Maddox said. "As a parent myself, I am equally as concerned as the parents we surveyed about children's exposure to smoking on screen."

The study was conducted by Mississippi State University's Social Science Research Center for American Medical Association Alliance -- the 26,000-member grass-roots arm of the AMA.

"There is an overwhelming and consistent body of evidence that shows a clear link between smoking in movies and youth starting to smoke," said Robert McMillen, associate research professor at Mississippi State University's Social Science Research Center and lead author of the report. "This national survey demonstrates substantial public and parental support for voluntary policy changes by Hollywood to reduce this toll, including R rating for almost all future tobacco scenes."

MPAA officials said the organization was working with health care professionals to discourage teenage smoking, but refused to commit to any changes in the ratings system.

"Everyone agrees that smoking is a very serious health problem, and the MPAA is currently exploring ways to discourage teen smoking with the Harvard School of Public Health and others," MPAA spokeswoman Gail Osterberg said. "Ratings are meant to provide parents with information so they can make informed decisions about their children's movie watching experience."

In 2005, one in six top-grossing U.S. movies showed or mentioned a tobacco brand. Two out of three U.S. live-action movies featured tobacco in 2006, including 68% of PG-13 films, the AMA said.

The Social Climate Survey of Tobacco Control is an annual poll of public attitudes toward tobacco policies. The 2006 survey of 1,800 adults nationwide has a margin of error of 2.3%.