Ex­perts rec­om­mend ‘R’ rat­ing for films that depict smok­ing

The Buffalo News - - NATIONAL NEWS - By Karen Ka­plan

LOS AN­GE­LES – Pub­lic health ex­perts have an un­usual sug­ges­tion for re­duc­ing teen smok­ing: Give just about any movie that de­picts to­bacco use an au­to­matic R rat­ing.

If that were to hap­pen, as many as 5.6 mil­lion kids who are alive to­day would be spared a to­bacco habit that will ul­ti­mately lead to their death, ac­cord­ing to the au­thors of a re­port pub­lished this month by the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

The study’s pri­mary goal was to as­sess Hol­ly­wood’s progress in keep­ing “to­bacco in­ci­dents” out of the movies most likely to be seen by Amer­ica’s chil­dren and teens. Re­searchers who fo­cus on this area de­fine such in­ci­dents as “the use or im­plied use of a to­bacco prod­uct (cig­a­rettes, cigars, pipes, hookah, smoke­less to­bacco prod­ucts and elec­tronic cig­a­rettes) by an ac­tor.” If two char­ac­ters are smok­ing dur­ing a con­ver­sa­tion, that counts as two to­bacco in­ci­dents. If one of those char­ac­ters is hold­ing a pack of cig­a­rettes in an­other scene, that qualifies as an­other in­ci­dent.

A group called Breathe Cal­i­for­nia in Sacra­mento keeps track of to­bacco in­ci­dents in all movies that spend at least one week among the na­tion’s top 10 high­est-gross­ing films. At least two raters as­sess each movie, and their find­ings are col­lected in a data­base that’s part of a project known as Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down!

The study au­thors ex­am­ined Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down! records from 2010 to 2016, fo­cus­ing on movies with a G, PG or PG-13 rat­ing. These were the movies kids were most likely to see, they rea­soned.

The good news is that to­bacco is mak­ing ap­pear­ances in fewer movies. In 2010, 31 per­cent of movies with youth-friendly rat­ings had at least one to­bacco in­ci­dent. By 2016, that fig­ure had dropped to 26 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the study.

To­bacco made a grand to­tal of just four ap­pear­ances in movies rated G or PG in 2016. That rep­re­sents an 87 per­cent de­cline from 2010, when there were 30 such ap­pear­ances. And among PG-13 movies, the pro­por­tion that in­cluded at least one to­bacco in­ci­dent fell from 43 per­cent in 2010 to 35 per­cent in 2016.

But al­though to­bacco ap­peared on­screen in fewer PG-13 movies over time, the to­tal num­ber of these ap­pear­ances rose from 564 in 2010 to 809 in 2016 – a 43 per­cent in­crease.

This means to­bacco in­ci­dents were con­cen­trated into fewer movies. A kid watch­ing a youth-rated movie that de­picted to­bacco in 2010 would have seen a to­tal of 22 in­ci­dents dur­ing the course of that film. By 2016, that fig­ure had risen 55 per­cent, to 34 in­ci­dents.

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