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For Immediate Release: January 3, 2001
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Increasing Actor Endorsement of Cigarette Brands in Films

The endorsement of well-known cigarette brands by actors in the US film industry has increased since the introduction of a formal product-placement ban in the late 1980s, concludes research led by Dartmouth Medical School and published in this week's issue of The Lancet(January 6).

The appearance of cigarette brands in cinema films gives them distinction through their association with the characters and general tone of the film. Through the worldwide distribution of films, brands are promoted globally. Only one previous study has involved the assessment of tobacco-brand placement and did not report an increasing trend in tobacco-brand use between 1985 and 1995.

James Sargent and colleagues from Dartmouth Medical School and the C. Everett Koop Institute, New Hampshire, USA, assessed the tobacco-brand appearances in a 10-year sample of contemporary films.

The investigators viewed the contents of the top 25 US box-office films for each year of release, from 1988 to 1997 (250 films in total). They compared the prevalence of brand appearances for films produced before a voluntary ban on paid product placement by the tobacco industry (198890) with films produced after the ban (199197).

Tobacco-brand appearance was defined as the screen appearance of a brand name, logo, or identifiable trademark on products or product packaging, billboards, store-front advertising, or tobacco promotional items. Actor endorsement occurred when the brand was displayed while being handled or used by an actor.

More than 85% of the films contained tobacco use. Tobacco brands appeared in 70 (28%) of films. Brand appearances were as common in films suitable for adolescent audiences as they were in films for adult audiences (32% compared with 35%), and were also present in 20% of those rated for children. Prevalence of brand appearances did not change overall in relation to the ban; however, there was a striking increase in the type of brand appearance depicted, with actor endorsement increasing from 1% of films before the ban to 11% after the ban.

Four US cigarette brands accounted for 80% of brand appearances. Revenues outside the USA accounted for 49% of total revenues for these films, indicating a large international audience.

The investigators conclude that tobacco-brand appearances are common in films and are becoming increasingly endorsed by actors. They comment that the most highly advertised US cigarette brands account for most brand appearances, which suggests an advertising motive to this practice.

Sargent comments: "The appearance of cigarette brands in films, especially when endorsed by actors, is no different from other forms of cigarette advertising. Any country that uses advertising restrictions to control tobacco use should restrict this practice. Any actor cigarette endorsement in U.S. films made after 1998 should be investigated to determine if it violates the Master Settlement Agreement, which precludes tobacco advertising in films."

Contact: Dr James Sargent
Cancer Risk Behaviors, Norris Cotton Cancer Center
Lebanon, NH, USA

Phone: 603-650-7397
Fax: 603-650-2008
E-mail: James.D.Sargent@Hitchcock.ORG

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