Rating films with smoking 'R' will cut smoking onset by teens

July 9, 2012

New research from Norris Cotton Cancer Center estimates, for the first time, the impact of an R rating for movie smoking. James Sargent, MD, co-director of the Cancer Control Research Program at Norris Cotton Cancer Center, emphasizes that an R rating for any film showing smoking could substantially reduce smoking onset in U.S. adolescents -- an effect size similar to making all parents maximally authoritative in their parenting, Sargent says.

"Smoking is a killer. Its connection to cancer, heart attacks, and is beyond doubt. Kids start to smoke before they're old enough to think about the risks; after starting they rapidly become addicted and then regret it. Hollywood plays a role by making smoking look really good," says Sargent. "By eliminating smoking in movies marketed to youth, an R rating for smoking would dramatically reduce exposure and lower adolescent smoking by as much as one-fifth."

The study, "Influence of Motion Picture Rating on Adolescent Response to Movie Smoking" (Pediatrics, Vol. 130, No. 2, August 2012), enrolled a total 6,522 U.S. in a conducted at eight-month intervals. Movie smoking exposure (MSE) was estimated from 532 recent hit movies, categorized into three of the ratings brackets used by the to rate films by content – G/PG, PG-13, and R. Median MSE from PG-13 movies was approximately three times higher than median MSE from R-rated films but their relation to smoking was essentially the same. The investigators were able to show that adolescent smoking would be reduced by 18 percent if smoking in PG-13 movies was largely eliminated, all else being equal.

"The equivalent effect of PG-13-rated and R-rated MSE suggests it is the movie smoking that prompts adolescents to smoke, not other characteristics of R-rated movies or adolescents drawn to them," the study concludes.

"We're just asking the movie industry to take smoking as seriously as they take profanity when applying the R rating," comments Sargent, who is also professor of pediatrics at The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. "The benefit to society in terms of reduced healthcare costs and higher quality of life is almost incalculable."

Explore further: Taxpayer film subsidies promote youth smoking

Related Stories

Taxpayer film subsidies promote youth smoking

August 23, 2011
State governments, including California as well as others in Canada and the United Kingdom, pour hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into major motion pictures that depict smoking -- leading to thousands of new teen ...

Recommended for you

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

freethinking
not rated yet Jul 09, 2012
The whole film rating system is junk. There are too many movies rated PG that should R, some (very few though) R movies that could be PG 13. A parent cannot rely on the current rating system at all, making this change will only muddy the waters further.

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.