doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-1792) studied children’s short term exposure to 20-minute segments of a cartoon or family-oriented movie. They randomized the segments to include or not include a character who smoked and then asked children to share their beliefs about smoking using a questionnaire. The good news is that in the short-run, school age children did not increase their interest in smoking although whether such early exposure played out as these children get older remains to be seen — perhaps in a second study by Sargent et al. (doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-1787) also being made available to you this week.
In this second study, more than 6,500 teens were enrolled in a longitudinal survey given every eight months for two years looking at exposure to moving smoking in popular movies seen by these adolescents and whether or not these same teens started smoking during the two years of the study. The results are dramatic for PG-13 and R rated films in that the more smoking characters in these films, the more a teen is apt to start smoking — but for G or PG movies, the association is not evident at all. Why the differences, and what the implications of this study are make for an interesting Discussion section in the article. I strongly suggest you read both studies and then share the findings with your adolescent patients so they are aware that exposure to smoking in the movies may influence their desire to initiate smoking as they get older.