Onscreen smoking clouds box office grossers?
Washington: Onscreen smoking clouded last year`s top box office grossers more so than the previous year, reversing five years of steady progress in reducing such imagery on the big screen, a new study shows.
Altogether, the 134 top-grossing films of 2011 depicted nearly 1,900 tobacco "incidents", the analysis found.
An incident is defined as one use or implied use (such as a lit cigarette) of a tobacco product by an actor.
Total tobacco incidents per movie rose seven percent from 2010 to 2011.
Among movies rated G, PG or PG-13, smoking incidents per movie soared by 36 percent. The data was obtained by counting tobacco incidents in movies whose box office sales ranked in the top 10 for at least a week, Preventing Chronic Disease Journal reported.
Many of these movies targeted a young audience, among them the PG-rated cartoon "Rango" and "X-Men: First Class." The more smoking young people see in movies, the more likely they are to start smoking, reported the US surgeon general.
"Hollywood has still not fixed this problem," said Stanton A. Glantz, professor of medicine at University of California - San Francisco (UCSF) and director of the Centre for Tobacco Control Research and Education, who led the study.
"The result of the increase in onscreen smoking in youth-rated films will be more kids starting to smoke and developing tobacco-induced disease," added Glantz, according to a UCSF statement.
The study was conducted with Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down!, a project of Breathe California of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails, which annually tracks tobacco use in the nation`s top-grossing movies.
Some of the films that showed the most smoking were "period" movies, such as "The Help," "Midnight in Paris," and "Hugo," which depicted an era when smoking was more common than it is today.
Others were fantasy films, including "Cowboys & Aliens," "Green Hornet" and "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1," which were aimed squarely at the youth market, noted Glantz.
"Movies continue to deliver billions of smoking images to adolescents," the authors reported.
In stark contrast to prior years, the three major film companies that have adopted policies designed to discourage smoking in their movies depicted just as many tobacco incidents per youth-rated movie as companies that lack tobacco use policies.
Those three studios with tobacco reduction policies are: Time Warner (established policy in 2005), Comcast (2007) and Disney (2004). The three companies with no such policies: Viacom, News Corp. and Sony.
Tobacco, the leading cause of preventable and premature death, kills an estimated 443,000 Americans annually, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.