Monday, November 07, 2005

Do Movies Cause Smoking?

A new study from the Dartmouth Med School has linked the movies teens see to their likihood of taking up smoking. This gets reported by the press as "nearly 40 percent of U.S. adolescents who give cigarette smoking a try do so because they saw it in movies" (Reuters). I don't think that's what the study says. Compare that lead line with the actual methodology of the study:

The research team counted cigarette smoking activity in 601 popular films released in the U.S. from 1988 to 1999, and they found an average of five occurrences of tobacco use per movie. Their student subjects were asked to identify films they had seen from a list of 50 randomly selected titles. Based on the movies they had seen and the amount of smoking in each movie, the adolescents were split into four levels of exposure to movie smoking.

If possible, I'll have a look at the actual report to see exactly how they corrected for other factors involved in the decision to smoke. While there might indeed be a correlation between what movies you watch and whether or not you smoke, that does not imply that the movies "caused" the smoking. Certain groups of people are more inclined to take up smoking, and they also might be more likely to see certain types of movies where smoking is more prevalent.

The inevitable outcome of this information is, of course, that we'll be hearing a good deal of bluster from politicans about "setting an example for the children" and proposals to ban smoking in movies.


At 8:01 AM, Blogger Garry said...

Movies don't cause smoking: hard-ass authority types who want to see your own freedoms limited cause smoking. Kids smoke because it's the ultimate act of rebellion. Rebel Without a Cause? The Wild One? Of course James Dean and Marlon Brando are cool! But they're rebels, too; it just pisses people off, and that's why it happens. And then, once you've rebelled enough, it's too late and you can't so easily give up smoking. It's the same with all drugs: if no one cared, no one would do it. Wait, that's not true. But it is true that most teenagers choose to smoke for ridiculous reasons, and making movies without any smokers in them is not going to change that. By the way, blogs are the new cigarette.

At 9:21 AM, Blogger Scott McC said...

"hard-ass authority types who want to see your own freedoms limited" - who are you and what have you done with Garry's nanny-state sensibilities?

At 6:06 PM, Blogger Garry said...

I'm still for the nanny state, I just think that if adults trusted in education rather than suppression, this would be less of a problem. Actually talking to kids... wow, am I naive.


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