Smoking in Top-Grossing Movies – United States, 1991-2009

There’s less smoking in the movies but youth still see an awful lot, according to the latest issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. It says that reducing tobacco scenes even further could help to reduce youth smoking.

The report summarizes the work of a project called Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down!, in which observers counted the number of scenes involving tobacco in the past decade’s highest-grossing movies. Tobacco “incidents” were defined as those featuring the use or implied use of tobacco products by any character.

The number of incidents have declined each year since reaching a high of 3,967 in 2005, to 1,935 in 2009. Also, 2009 was the first year in which more than half (51 percent) of all top-grossing movies showed no tobacco use, the CDC said.

However, such tobacco incidents occurred in 54 percent of the movies rated PG-13.

One meta-analysis estimated that exposure to smoking in popular movies could account for 44 percent of the likelihood that youths will smoke. The CDC says that decreased exposure to tobacco in movies in recent years might have contributed to the corresponding decline in youth tobacco use.

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