There has been smoking in the movies since pictures could talk. Directors think it is necessary for the plot, but new University of California San Francisco research shows that smoking scenes in films translates into smoking behavior.
"The movies are very, very powerful stimulus for smoking behavior among young adult smokers," says UCSF professor of medicine Stanton A. Glantz.
In the first new research aimed at 18-25 year olds, Dr. Glantz and his colleagues examined 100 smokers, exposing them to smoking and non-smoking scenes. Half of them saw Gweneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke in "Great Expectations," the non-smoking version. The other half saw a different one, complete with cigarette smoke.
"People who saw the clips with smoking were three times more likely to smoke than people who didn't," says Glantz.
Smoking on film becomes a powerful trigger to light up outside a theatre.
People trying to quit smoking should avoid seeing films which contain smoking and that does not mean movies will come from a rating from the Surgeon General.
"What we've been asking for is an R-rating for smoking," says Glantz.
How do you know if there is smoking in a film? Dr. Glantz has a website that lists the movies that contain smoking and the ones that are smoke free.
"We think the simple fact of integrating smoking into the rating system so that movies with smoking get an R-rating would prevent about 200,000 kids a year from starting to smoke," says Glantz.
He's taken out ads discouraging smoking scenes in trade publications like Daily Variety. Studios have already eliminated smoking in youth-focused films, but they stop short of an R-rating as too restrictive.
"All of the studios have policies in place to reduce the amount of smoking in films and some of them are working pretty hard at it," says Glantz. ""In terms of art and telling the story, you really don't need it."