Pre-teens and younger adolescents exposed to movie depictions of smoking are more likely to use tobacco themselves than kids in their late teens and early 20s, a new study finds.
Pittsburgh researchers, writing in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, said their findings suggest anti-smoking efforts may be more successful when aimed at younger children.
For the study, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers tracked 2,074 public school students in Vermont and New Hampshire. The students were surveyed about their backgrounds, movies watched, and tobacco use in 1999 – when they were 9-14 years old – and then re-interviewed in 2006-2007, when they were 16-22 years old.
The researchers found young kids who watched a lot of movies depicting smokers were 73 percent more likely to become smokers than those who viewed fewer episodes of tobacco use. By contrast, students aged 16-22 years who watched a lot of films depicting smokers were not more likely to smoke than those who viewed fewer images of tobacco use.
"These results indicate that early exposure to smoking depicted in movies is associated with established smoking in adolescents, whereas late exposure is not," the researchers write. “These findings suggest that prevention efforts should focus on the reduction of exposure to smoking depicted in movies when children are at a young age."