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Smoking in Top-Grossing Movies—United States, 1991–2009

August 20, 2010 / Vol. 59 / No. 32


MMWR Highlights

Overview

  • Exposure to onscreen smoking in movies increases the probability that young people will start smoking.
  • Young people who are heavily exposed to onscreen smoking are approximately 2–3 times more likely to begin smoking compared with young people lightly exposed to seeing people smoke in movies.
  • This study counted tobacco incidents (the use or implied off-screen use of a tobacco product by an actor) and in-theater tobacco impressions (number of incidents viewed by moviegoers) for top-grossing films in the United States from 1991 to 2009.

Recent Onscreen Smoking Trends

  • During 1991–2001, the total number of in-theater onscreen smoking impressions varied from 30–60 billion per year.
  • The number of onscreen smoking incidents peaked in 2005 and then steadily declined over the next 4 years (in top-grossing films sampled)

    • Between 1991 and 1997, onscreen smoking incidents ranged from 2,106–3,386 per year.
    • The number of onscreen smoking incidents then declined, but rose again to peak at 3,967 in 2005.
    • From 2005 to 2009, the number of onscreen smoking incidents dropped 52% (to 1,935 in 2009).

Onscreen Smoking in 2009

  • Approximately 54% of PG-13 films contained incidents of tobacco use in 2009.
  • By 2009, the total number of in-theater onscreen smoking impressions had declined to an estimated 17 billion per year.

  • The percentage of smoke-free films reached a high point in 2009.
    • Approximately 51% of all top-grossing films did not show tobacco use in 2009.
    • Approximately 61% of all top-grossing youth-rated films (G, PG, or PG-13) did not show tobacco use in 2009.
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