Youth too smart to be sucked in by smoking actors

An expert on youth, tobacco use and the media does not think that classifying films that feature smoking will make any difference to the habits of young people.

A new European study has added weight to claims that young people are more inclined to take up smoking after they see it being done in films. The findings have led to calls from overseas health authorities to classify smoking movies as R18.

Actress Lindsay Lohan smoking a cigarette

Actress Lindsay Lohan smoking a cigarette

Dr Judith McCool from Auckland University says despite the studies, she believes that young people are smart when it comes to media and do not suddenly see an image of someone smoking and decide to take up the habit.

“From the research that we’ve done in New Zealand I don’t think classifying will work … going through the complicated process of reclassifying films that contain smoking is not going to solve this issue at all,” she said.

The latest study, and one undertaken in the US, both found similar results but McCool says they are based on a “dose response relationship”.

“These studies sound very convincing in terms of what they identify, but it’s how you interpret it that’s important.

“What they measure is purely onscreen exposure to smokers. Then they add a range of other factors that we know are associated with smoking and, from that, they say ‘the more smoking you are exposed to the more likely you are to become a smoker’,” she said.

McCool said New Zealand studies on the subject did not use the same method as the overseas ones did.

“We’ve tried to explore the relationship between viewing smoking and taking up smoking to see which groups are more vulnerable.”

McCool says images that depict the kind of life a young person wants to live are more powerful than generic ones that show something like smoking.

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