Where There's Smoke, There's Ire
Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH, President and CEO of Legacy, says "Among young people aged 8 to 18, 30% of their media use is spent on watching television... nearly 1 million young people were exposed to tobacco images during the analysis... "
Researchers at Legacy reviewed more than 70 episodes of top-rated/prime-time broadcast television shows popular among 12-17 year olds such as Family Guy, Gossip Girl, Heroes and The Simpsons. All of the episodes (representing an estimated 61.5 hours of programming in a single fall season) were rated either TV-PG or TV-14, which is a more stringent rating with respect to cautioning parents about the content their children see on television.
According to the report:
- The percent of episodes with any tobacco use depictions was highest on the FOX network (44%) followed closely by CBS-Warner Brothers, "The CW" (41%)
- 40% of television episodes reviewed contained at least one depiction of tobacco use; of these depictions, 89% were of cigarettes
- Among episodes rated TV-PG, 50% showed one or more incidents of cigarette use, in contrast to 26% of TV-14 episodes, the more stringent rating.
A higher proportion of tobacco use was found among programs rated TV-PG as compared with those rated TV-14, indicating that exposure to tobacco depictions may skew toward youth of younger ages, resulting in earlier exposure to this behavior, says the report. This may have an impact on teens' decisions to smoke.
Past research confirms a relationship between smoking in television and young people starting to smoke, with the risk for smoking initiation increasing markedly with more hours of television viewing. Additionally, smoking images in movies leads to an estimated 180,000 new young smokers each year, prompting public health advocates to ponder (or consider) the impact that smoking on television might have on youth.
"Since movies and television are not mutually exclusive media channels, the body of evidence pertaining to movies is highly relevant to television as well... " Healton said.
According to the report, (another) study has shown that parents are just as concerned about smoking content in media, which is not currently included in television ratings, as they are with alcohol use, profanity or sexual content.
For more about the Legacy for Health, please visit here.