New Delhi: Adolescents who watch Bollywood stars light up or use other tobacco products on screen are more likely to be tobacco users, says a new study.
"The odds of using tobacco once or more in a lifetime among students who were highly exposed to tobacco use occurrences in Bollywood films were more than twice as compared to those with low exposure," says the study published online in the British Medical Journal.
A sample of 3956 students aged between 12-16 years were surveyed from 12 schools selected randomly across New Delhi in the year 2009 for the study titled "Tobacco use in
Bollywood movies, tobacco promotional activities and their association with tobacco use among Indian adolescents."
"Adolescents in this study had seen a mean of 162 tobacco use occurrences from the 59 films that were coded. Results also suggest that boys are much more exposed than girls," says Dr Monika Arora, Head, Health Promotion and Tobacco Control, Public Health Foundation of India and lead author of the study.
The study assessed the teenagers` current and ever tobacco use status, receptivity to tobacco promotions and exposure to tobacco use in movies.
"This is the first systematic study in India to show an association between tobacco use depiction in Bollywood films and tobacco use among adolescents, as a well-established
content analysis method has been adopted in this research," says Dr Gaurang Nazar, of HRIDAY who co-authored the study.
"Each film was viewed by coders and tobacco use exposure in each film was recorded," he added. Researchers from Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth
(HRIDAY), Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and Community and Family Medicine and Pediatrics, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, US contributed to the survey.
The study has also found that students who owned or were willing to wear tobacco branded merchandise had greater chances of being ever tobacco users.
Nearly 7.3 per cent of all adolescents in the study reported owning a tobacco promotional item.
Selection criteria included top grossing 15 films per year for three years (2006-2008) and four to five films per year that were known to have extensive depiction of tobacco use.
A tobacco occurrence in the film was defined as appearance of a tobacco produce being used by a character on screen (cigarettes, beedi, smokeless tobacco, cigar, pipe, smoky background and an appearance of a tobacco product with ownership by a particular character.
The Indian film industry produces double the number of films produced in Hollywood and has a viewership of nearly 3 million world over.
Though depiction of smoking in Hollywood films has been already established as a risk factor for teen smoking in the United States and Europe, no such estimate has been available for Bollywood films and their influence on Indian adolescents.
The recent study summarised that the association between seeing film tobacco use and youth tobacco use is not restricted to Hollywood films or Western countries
"Results from the research highlight the need to strengthen implementation of tobacco control laws and finalise the rules related to tobacco use in films, with particular attention paid to prohibit showing smoking and tobacco use in Indian films, which glamorises this behaviour for the young audience and they get an impression that smoking and tobacco use is a norm," says Dr Monika Arora.
"Both, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting need to work concertedly in this direction," she adds.
In India, high prevalence of tobacco consumption is one of the major challenges to health and well being of its citizens. About 2700 Indians die every day from tobacco use.
Research shows that 5500 youth in India start using tobacco daily. A survey of tobacco use among young people, the
Global Youth Tobacco Survey-2009, reveals that nearly 15 percent of youth currently use tobacco in India. Many teenagers light their first cigarette after watching their favourite
actor smoke on screen.