Movies hook young people on tobacco

There is evidence of a clear relationship between smoking in films and smoking initiation among young people, according to the new WHO Smoke-free Movies Report – From evidence to action, the third edition since its launch in 2009.

As other forms of tobacco promotion are regulated, films are being used more and more as a way to promote smoking. This is an effective way of getting around the ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products, an obligation of the 180 Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) by international law. As traditional advertising is restricted, smoking in films increases.

The tremendous reach of the film medium and its appeal to adolescents make it an obvious channel for marketing to youth and for portraying smoking as socially acceptable. While this is unregulated, it is a powerful promotional channel for tobacco marketing. Any country seeking to ban or restrict tobacco advertising and promotion must address the issue of smoking on screen or risk severely compromising its public health efforts.

By applying the specific measures outlined in the guidelines for implementation of WHO FCTC Article 13, countries can reduce the influence that smoking in films has on young people. These measures have enormous potential for averting the growing burden of disease due to tobacco use, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. In order to prevent children from starting to use tobacco, WHO calls on governments to rate movies that portray tobacco use.

The new report summarizes current knowledge about smoking in films as well as current and proposed approaches to reducing the impact of such imagery.