'R' ratings urged for smoking on screen
An “R” rating for any film showing smoking could substantially reduce the smoking onset in U.S. adolescents, according to the new study.
“If we took out the smoking by making all smoking rated “R,” adolescent smoking would be reduced by about 18 percent,” said Dr. Susanne Tanski, who authored the study, along with Dr. James Sargent and Mike Stoolmiller, PhD.
The study, “Influence of Motion Picture Rating on Adolescent Response to Movie Smoking,” observed 6,522 U.S. adolescents periodically for several years.
Movie smoking exposure was estimated from 532 recent hit movies, categorized into the ratings brackets used by the Motion Picture Association of America to rate films by content — “G,” “PG,” “PG-13” and “R.”
The study found that the average amount of “Movie Smoking Exposure” in “PG-13” movies was approximately three times higher than it was in R-rated films. That was because adolescents view fewer “R” movies.
The evidence suggests something occurs on an unconscious or subconscious level. “Behavior is being changed by what they see in the movies,” Tanski said.
In today’s society, movie stars are seen as examples, whether parents like it or not, and their on-screen actions have far reaching effects.
“What they do really does impact the kids,” Tanski said. “We’re just trying to raise awareness that the media is a powerful influence on our lives.”
And for some adolescents, all it takes to try smoking is just one time, Tanski said.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that the number of kids who try a single cigarette, up to 40 percent won’t be able to stop,” Tanski said. “People think that they could just try it and stop, but there are a large number of kids that just can’t. Addiction happens fast and adolescents think it’s not going to happen to them.”
That is why the study recommends the Motion Picture Association of America consider smoking in the same way it would nudity, foul language or drug use, and label the film “R.”
“If smoking warranted an ‘R’ rating, movie makers would likely take it out. … If they did, that they would reduce adolescent smoking,” said Tanski.
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Meghan Pierce may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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