For Release: 4 pm ET, July 14, 2003
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Message to pediatricians: advise parents to limit access to movies to reduce chances of teen smoking
HANOVER, NH - Building on their published data on the connections between adolescent smoking and watching movies, Dartmouth researchers advise pediatricians to urge parents to monitor their teens' access to movies and abide by the ratings guidelines sponsored by the Motion Picture Association of America and the National Association of Theatre Owners.
The study by researchers from Dartmouth Medical School, Dartmouth College and the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, appears in the July issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. The research was supported by the National Cancer Institute.
"We want pediatricians to talk with parents of adolescents about how movies can influence their young teenagers," says Dr. James Sargent, a pediatrician with the Norris Cotton Cancer Center and a professor at Dartmouth Medical School. "Parents need to know that if they can reduce their child's exposure to smoking in movies, it may have a profound impact on reducing their chances of starting to smoke and drink."
Sargent's team studies adolescent behavior and how it's linked to exposure to movies. They have published numerous papers and articles, which this most current study cites. According to this body of research, adolescents see thousands of depictions of smoking by movie stars, and these images influence their attitude and behavior.
Now, Sargent and his colleagues urge pediatricians to use the published data (see "Related Findings" below) to offer specific advice to parents on how to limit access to movies, such as reducing subscriptions to movie channels, limiting videos to one per week, and restricting access to R-rated movies.
They conclude that, "Such parenting measures could reduce rates of adolescent smoking without directly addressing the behavior."
In January 2001, this research team reported that actor endorsement of cigarette brands in movies was increasing. In March 2001, the team released findings that adolescents whose favorite movie stars smoke on-screen are more likely to be smokers themselves. In December 2001, they published a paper stating that children are less likely to smoke if their parents disapprove. In another article, published in December 2001, the researchers revealed that as adolescents see more smoking in movies, the adolescents are more likely to be enticed to try smoking. A paper in early 2002 stated that children who are not restricted from watching R-rated movies are three times more likely to smoke or drink alcohol compared to those who are never allowed to watch them. Another study, published in December 2002, found that a surprising number of young teenagers are watching extremely violent movies. In a study published in June 2003, the researchers found that viewing smoking in movies predicts whether adolescents will start smoking. That study can be found at http://geiselmed.dartmouth.edu/news/2003_h1/10jun2003_smoking.shtml