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News Release

Smoking scenes in youth-rated movies work to hook kids

Sep 16, 2016
SIMCOE-MUSKOKA –What do the movies 101 Dalmatians, Ant-Man and Superman Returns all have in common? They were all made for youth audiences and they all contain smoking scenes that depict the characters who smoke as glamorous, dangerous or mysterious.

SIMCOE-MUSKOKA –What do the movies 101 Dalmatians, Ant-Man and Superman Returns all have in common? They were all made for youth audiences and they all contain smoking scenes that depict the characters who smoke as glamorous, dangerous or mysterious.

It’s no coincidence that each of these movies has smoking scenes,” says Tracey Burnet-Greene, youth advisor with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s tobacco-free living team. “It’s a proven way to entice kids to give smoking a try. In fact, the entertainment media is one of the only remaining places where tobacco promotion to youth is still allowed.”

Research from the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention among others has shown a direct relationship between tobacco imagery in the movies and youth smoking rates – especially among kids from non-smoking families. When compared with kids who rarely saw smoking in the movies, kids with the highest exposure were 2.7 times as likely to try smoking themselves.

The Ontario Tobacco Research Unit looked at top-rated movies for youth and kids released in the province over a recent 10-year period ending in 2013, and found that 86% of movies contained smoking scenes. Based on that research, it is estimated about 13,000 youth aged 12 to 17 years old are recruited annually to smoke.

“It’s shameful. You work hard to keep your kids smoke free and to be a good role model and then they go to the movies and are bombarded with smoking images that counter your smoke-free messaging,” Burnet-Greene.

Health units across Ontario have launched an education and awareness campaign to bring the issue out from the darkness of the theatres and put a spotlight on the need for youth rated movies to be smoke-free. Locally, residents will see billboards, tweets and posters and hear radio messages with the message: Movies Influence Kids – Make Movies Smoke-free.

“It’s a call to ban smoking scenes in movies for audiences under 18,” she said.

“We are confident when parents and caregivers learn about this direct marketing of a deadly product there will be a demand for smoke-free movies for all youth audiences.”

Residents can learn more about the research behind the smoke-free movies campaign and how to protect your children, by visiting the health unit website at www.simcoemuskokahealth.org or going directly to the provincial site at smokefreemovies.ca

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Left to right Youth volunteers with the health unit’s tobacco-free living program, Molly Iliohan, Trevor Boote and Quinton Moores are trying to raise awareness among parents about the role tobacco imagery plays in movies geared for youth audiences. In a review of the top-rated movies for youth 86% featured smoking.

The health unit is working to share information with parents about the impact of smoking in movies has on children and how it increases the chances they will start to smoke as a teen.  


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