Smoking in films harms children

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Three new studies in the current issue of Thorax published today provide good evidence that smoking in films leads to British children taking up smoking. [1] This is backed up by increasing international evidence that exposure to smoking in films is a major cause of smoking experimentation and uptake among young people. [2]

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH said:

“Smoking rates in children have been falling largely due to the ban on tobacco advertising. However, these improvements are being undermined by the unwarranted amount of smoking in films that we are told are suitable for children.”

In the Department of Health’s Tobacco Plan [3] the Government said it would continue to work to reduce the depiction of smoking in the media, including through bringing together media regulators and the entertainment industry to consider what more can be done.

Deborah Arnott, added:

“Research clearly shows that smoking in films encourages young people to become smokers themselves. It is time for the Government to honour its pledge to work constructively with the film industry to tackle this serious problem.”


[1] Britton J & Lyons A. Protecting young people from smoking imagery in films: whose responsibility? (Editorial) Thorax 2011 doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2011-200789

One of the 3 studies – the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children – found that teenagers who saw films with the most depictions of smoking were 59% more likely to have started smoking than those exposed the lowest levels of smoking imagery, after taking into account other influential social factors.

[2] See for example: The National Cancer Institute. The Role of the Media in Promoting and Reducing Tobacco Use. Tobacco Control Monograph No. 19. US Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health, 2008. Report No 07-6242.

World Health Organization. Smoke-free Movies: from Evidence to Action. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2009.

[3]  Tobacco Control Plan for England (p23)