Seeing smoking in movies can almost triple the chances that an adolescent will try smoking.

As reported in The Lancet (July 2003), we assessed exposure to smoking shown in movies in 3547 adolescents, aged 10 -14 years old, who reported in a baseline survey that they had never tried smoking. The study participants’ exposure to smoking in movies was assessed at baseline by asking each student to indicate which films he or she had seen from a unique list of 50 movies. The movies had been previously coded for incidents of smoking.

Seventy-three percent (2603) of the students were successfully re-contacted 13 – 26 months later to assess whether they had initiated smoking. Students who reported any smoking (just a few puffs, one to 100 cigarettes, and more than 100 cigarettes) were classified has having initiated smoking.


"Even after taking into account child characteristics, social influences and parenting characteristics, we estimate that 52.2% of smoking initiation in this group of adolescents can be attributed to exposure to smoking in movies."

Lead author Dr. Madeline Dalton

  • On average, students had seen 16 out of the 50 movies they were asked about, for an average of 98.5 smoking occurrences.
  • 10% (259) of participants initiated smoking during the follow-up period.
  • Adolescents in the highest quartile of exposure to movie smoking were 2.7 times more likely to have initiated smoking compared to those in the lowest quartile of exposure, even after adjusting for a wide range of child and parent characteristics.
  • Movie smoking appeared to have a stronger influence on smoking initiation among adolescents with non-smoking parents compared to adolescents whose parents smoke.

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