No butts about it: Teens who view smoking in movies likely to use cigarettes for the first time

ANN ARBOR, Mich.--Teens who see movie characters using cigarettes are quicker to try smoking than their peers who did not watch the same scene, a new study finds.

However, the exposure to movie images involving cigarettes does not appear to lead teens who have tried smoking to become regular smokers sooner, said Sonya Dal Cin, an assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Michigan and the study’s lead author.

Having friends who smoke and access to cigarettes at home resulted in teens smoking earlier in life, the study said.

Dal Cin wrote the study with Mike Stoolmiller, a senior research associate at the University of Oregon, and James Sargent, a professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School.

The researchers investigated the link between the exposure to smoking in movies and how it affects teens. More than 6,500 teens nationwide ages 10 to 14 years completed the telephone survey.

In four separate s, researchers asked the teens if they saw any of 50 randomly selected movies from a comprehensive list of top grossing films. They also obtained background information and inquired about other social influences that might affect whether or not they smoked.

The results showed that age could significantly predict smoking behavior. Gender was not related to the timing of smoking behavior.

Race and ethnicity were associated with how quickly someone who experimented with cigarettes became an established smoker, but did not affect how early they started smoking. A higher household income and better school performance delayed the onset of smoking.

Dal Cin noted that the relation between exposure to movie smoking and teens smoking for the first time is a concern because starting earlier increases the likelihood of becoming heavy smokers.

The findings appear in the Journal of Health Communication.