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Movies linked to tobacco addiction in youth

Story by Natalie Simpson, @byuiscroll

The World Health Organization is calling on the film industry to increase ratings for films including smoking scenes to protect adolescents from tobacco addiction.

“Studies in the United States of America have shown that on-screen smoking accounts for 37 percent of all new adolescent smokers,” according to the organization’s website.

Forty-four percent of films in 2014 included smoking scenes, and 36 percent were rated for adolescents, according to the World Health Organization.

“More than 80 percent of adults ‘agree that smoking in movies influences teens to smoke,’ according to the survey, which was conducted over three years by Mississippi State University’s Social Science Research Center,” according to ABC News.

However, there are groups that fear increasing movie ratings would stifle filmmakers artistic ability, according to ABC News.

“(WHO) wants governments to take ‘concrete steps’ to address tobacco use on-screen, including ending the display of all tobacco brands in movies, displaying tobacco warnings before movies that contain smoking and ensuring filmmakers don’t receive anything in exchange for using or displaying tobacco products in films,” according to Newsweek. “The WHO also recommends making films that promote smoking ineligible for public subsidies.”

The United States is not the only country in the world to have top-grossing films that include tobacco use.

“Surveys have shown that tobacco imagery was found in top-grossing films produced in six European countries (Germany, Iceland, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom), and two Latin American countries (Argentina and Mexico),” according to the WHO. “Nine in 10 movies from Iceland and Argentina contain smoking, including films rated for young people.”

Between 2002 and 2014, 59 percent, nearly two-thirds, of top-grossing films included tobacco imagery, according to the WHO.

“In 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in the United States alone, exposure to on-screen smoking would recruit more than 6 million new, young smokers from among American children in 2014, of which 2 million would ultimately die from tobacco-induced diseases,” according to the WHO.

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