Kids May Be Affected By Alcohol Scenes In Movies
May 28, 2013

Kids May Be Affected By Alcohol Scenes In Movies

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

While American children are seeing less tobacco use in the movies these days, they´re also more likely watching alcohol consumption in those same films, according to new research in JAMA Pediatrics.

The study explicitly showed the success of passing restrictions on the film industry, the study authors said, referring to regulations placed on tobacco images but not on alcohol.

"In order to be effective, constraints on advertising for products that harm adolescents should be externally developed and enforced," said co-author Dr. James Sargent, professor of Pediatrics at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. "Historically, industry self-regulation in this area does not work.”

In 1998, the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement between major tobacco manufacturers and most of the United States changed how tobacco products were marketed to youths, including reducing the appearance of smoking in films.

In the study, the researchers examined the effectiveness of the agreement with respect to 1,400 films — selected by taking the top box office hits from 1996 through 2009.

The researchers found that tobacco brand product appearances dropped by 7 percent each year until 2006. After that year, these placements occurred at a rate of 22 per year. Over the course of the study, there was a 42 percent decline in tobacco screen time for youth-rated movies and an 85 percent decrease for adult audiences.

Meanwhile, alcohol product placements have jumped from 80 to 145 each year in youth-rated movies, the study said.

"In summary, this study found dramatic declines in brand appearances for tobacco after such placements were prohibited by an externally monitored and enforced regulatory structure, even though such activity had already been prohibited in the self-regulatory structure a decade before," the study's authors wrote in a statement.

"During the same period, alcohol brand placements, subject only to self-regulation, increased significantly in movies rated acceptable for youth audiences, a trend that could have implications for teen drinking," they continued.

The inclusion of tobacco and alcohol in child- and teen-rated films has been linked to smoking and drinking at a younger age, above average drinking and alcohol abuse. A 2012 study involving six European countries found that teens who watch more alcohol-related scenes in movies were more likely to binge drink.

However, that study did not find a cause-and-effect relationship between drinking on screen and the alcohol habits of teens and many experts argue that these types of studies can´t determine if these behaviors began before or after watching characters drink on screen.

Because the risk for developing a serious drinking problem increases the earlier an individual starts consuming alcohol, the establishment of a cause-and-effect relationship between alcohol in movies and teens could have major implications. Even if that relationship is never established, concern over the welfare of teens could drive a similar agreement to the MSA or set of restrictions that limit the depictions of alcohol on film since self-regulation of the industry appears to be having the reverse effect.

While the jury is still out on the effect alcohol in movies has on teens, the researchers suggest that concerned parents watch movies with their adolescent children and talk about what they see on screen.