Dwindling visibility of tobacco in prime time US TV linked to fall in smoking rates

The dwindling visibility of tobacco products in prime time US TV drama programs may be linked to a fall in smoking prevalence of up to two packs of cigarettes per adult a year, suggests research published online in the journal Tobacco Control.

The impact may be as much as half of that exerted by pricing, say the authors.

In the largest study of its kind researchers watched and coded 1838 hours of popular U.S. prime-time dramas broadcast between 1955 and 2010 to gauge the impact of the depiction of on smokers.

The trends were compared with of cigarettes among US adults during this period.

The results showed that the depiction of tobacco, products, including smoking, purchasing, and handling, has fallen since 1961, in line with the decline in cigarette consumption.

TV tobacco use fell from 4.96 instances per hour of programming (excluding advertising) in 1961 to 0.29 instances per hour in 2010.

After taking account of changes in cigarette prices and other influential factors, the authors calculated that one less tobacco event per episode hour across two years of programming significantly predicted an annual fall of nearly two packs of cigarettes (38.5 cigarettes) for every US adult.

The price of tobacco is known to influence . And the authors therefore compared the effects of price and TV depiction of tobacco on consumption.

They estimated that the declining visibility of tobacco on TV had half as large an impact in curbing consumption as price.

But importantly, the findings also suggested that continuing TV depiction of tobacco use may have hindered an even faster decline of the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

The findings are consistent with other research showing that exposure to cues prompts cravings for in adult smokers, say the authors.

The depiction of smoking in other screen media, such as cable TV and YouTube, should be studied further in the United States and internationally in countries with high rates of smoking and TV use, they conclude.

More information: Portrayal of tobacco use in prime-time TV dramas: trends and associations with adult cigarette consumption—USA, 1955-2010, Online First, DOI: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2012-050896

Related Stories

Contraband tobacco use hinders smoking cessation

date Mar 04, 2013

People who smoke low-cost contraband cigarettes in Canada are less likely to stop smoking in the short term compared with people who smoke more expensive premium or discount cigarettes, according to a study published in CMAJ (Canad ...

Health concerns swirl around electronic cigarettes

date Mar 26, 2014

With sales of electronic cigarettes, or "e-cigarettes," on the rise and expected to hit $1.5 billion this year, concerns over potential health risks of using the trendy devices are also gaining momentum and political clout. ...

Recommended for you

Clinical trial reduces stress of cancer caregivers

date 8 hours ago

Stem cell transplant is essential in the care of many blood cancers, but leaves patients requiring in-home care for months after. Frequently the role of caregiver falls to family or other committed members ...

Video: Debunking three common food myths

date 9 hours ago

You might have heard that microwaving your food is dangerous. Maybe your health nut friend told you that eating frozen veggies is less healthful than eating fresh ones. Is a glass of red wine really good ...

Tackling child abuse in Africa with research and fun

date 12 hours ago

In one of South Africa's poorest areas, an imaginative new parenting programme is tackling the physical and emotional abuse of children. Oxford University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, travelled ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.