Popcorn and Cigarettes? Smoking in Movies

Parents can minimize the harm from kids watching smoking onscreen.

Maybe they should call it fourth-hand smoking. While Hollywood has reduced smoking in films aimed at younger audiences, parents can’t be certain kids won’t be exposed to onscreen cigarette or cigar puffing, even with PG-rated or animated movies. Experts share the facts here about onscreen tobacco use and how to keep your kids from emulating characters who smoke.

While youth smoking rates keep dropping, a substantial number of teens still smoke, says Dr. David Hill, chairman for the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Communications and Media. “We know that if people don’t initiate tobacco use while they’re children or teenagers, they almost never do so in adulthood,” says Hill, who practices at KidzCare Pediatrics in Wilmington, North Carolina. “Essentially, if they don’t catch you by age 19, they’re probably not going to get you.”

That’s why smoking in movies for kids, who are impressionable, really matters. “We also know that the normalization of tobacco use in movies does have a strong impact on a child’s risk of future tobacco use,” Hill says. “We know that there’s a dose-dependent effect between exposure to tobacco use in movies and television shows and a child’s subsequent risk of tobacco use.”

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