‘R’ rated movies with smoking stops teens from lighting up

‘R’ rated movies with smoking stops teens from lighting up

Movies with an “R” rating generally contain adult material, which includes profane language, persistent violence or adult themes among other elements. However, recent research may encourage a push for cigarette smoking to be added to the list of adult material, in an effort to curb teen smoking.

Research from the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., reveals that an R rating for any film showing smoking could substantially reduce smoking onset in U.S. adolescents. The impact of this was listed in consumer materials accompanying the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report: “The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress.

According to data from the author of the research, Dr. James Sargent, the reduction in teen smoking would be similar to an R-rated movie with smoking if all parents took an active, authoritative stand with their teenagers against smoking.

“Kids start to smoke before they’re old enough to think about the risks; after starting, they rapidly become addicted and then regret it,” said Dr. Sargent in a statement. “Hollywood plays a role by making smoking look really good. By eliminating smoking in movies marketed to youth, an R rating for smoking would dramatically reduce exposure and lower adolescent smoking by as much as one-fifth,” explained Sargent, professor of pediatrics at The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.

The study included more than 6,500 U.S. teens and involved a survey conducted at eight-month intervals of movie smoking exposure estimated from more than 530 recent hit movies. Researchers found that adolescent smoking would be reduced by 18 percent if smoking in PG-13 movies was largely eliminated. In comparison, parenting in a “maximally authoritative” way with regard to smoking would lower teen smoking by 16 percent.

“Smoking is a killer. Its connection to cancer, heart attack and chronic lung disease is beyond doubt,” said Dr. Sargent. “We’re just asking the movie industry to take smoking as seriously as they take profanity when applying the R rating. The benefit to society in terms of reduced healthcare costs and higher quality of life is almost incalculable,” he said.


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  1. America’s obsession with smoking – real or otherwise (e.g. “vaping”) – continues. One way to solve yet another instance of activists, advocates and experts chiming in on something out of their purview . . . disband film ratings altogether and let people decide for themselves what they can, want and should see.

    • I think there definitely is something to be said for exercising our freedom of choice. I also think parents taking an active role would be helpful as well in an ideal world, but how many of us listened to our parents? Thanks for responding, Jefferson.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.