February 24, 2016 - In Ontario, 37% of youth tobacco use can be attributed to onscreen smoking. Youth-rated movies delivered 7 billion tobacco impressions to Ontario theatre audiences between 2004 and 2013. According to multiple studies world-wide, the more smoking that youth see in movies, the more likely they are to smoke. Today, the Northwest Tobacco Control Area Network (NW TCAN,) in collaboration with the Ontario Coalition for Smoke-Free Movies (OCSFM), launched a new tool to describe this complicated issue to parents across Ontario.
“It’s definitely a tough one for people to get their heads around,” says Daniel DePeuter, NW TCAN Coordinator. “It’s difficult to believe that people are so heavily influenced by what they see in movies that it can actually cause them to start smoking cigarettes. That’s why we created this video; not just to tell people about the issue, but to explain the evidence itself.”
The style of video is known as a “quick-draw”. The narrator Dr. Robert Schwartz, research scientist and Executive Director of the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit, explains how the studies that were conducted prove that watching movies with smoking causes kids to start. As he speaks, images are drawn on a white board and sped up to match the narration. The result is that the issue is explained both by a credible source and visually, so that the information can be more easily understood.
The bottom line is there are things that can be done to fix this problem. “Canadian kids are exposed to even more smoking onscreen than their American counterparts due a looser rating standard. Something as simple as changing the movie rating system can go a long way to solve it,” says DePeuter. “By giving an adult rating to new movies that contain tobacco use, studios will have to consider whether they want to include smoking scenes in movies. This could potentially save 30,000 lives in Ontario alone and save over half a billion dollars in health care costs over their lifetime.”
There are things that the public can do right now that will help spread the message and create support. Parents can screen movies for smoking scenes by checking out “Hooked by Hollywood” on Facebook and share the video on their social media to raise the awareness of their friends.
The NW TCAN’s quick draw video can be found on YouTube by searching for “Do Movies Cause Kids to Smoke?” and at smokefreemovies.ca, along with more information about smoking in movies and what can be done to tackle this problem.