Smoking Motives in Movies Are Important for Understanding Adolescent Smoking

A Preliminary Investigation

Published In: Nicotine & Tobacco Research, v. 12, no. 8, Aug. 2010, p. 850-854

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2010

by William G. Shadel, Steven C. Martino, Amelia Haviland, Claude Messan Setodji, Brian A. Primack

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INTRODUCTION: Exposure to smoking in movies is strongly associated with smoking uptake and maintenance among adolescents. However, little is known about what features of movies (e.g., the context for smoking or motives for a character smoking) moderate the association between exposure to movie smoking and adolescent smoking. This laboratory study examined whether exposure to movie smoking that is portrayed as having a clear motive is associated with the desire to smoke differently than smoking that is portrayed as having no clear motive. METHODS: A sample of 77 middle school students (mean age of 12.8 years, 62% male, 60% Caucasian) viewed movie clips that portrayed smoking as helping to facilitate social interaction, to relax, to appear rebellious, or as having no clear motive. After exposure to each clip, participants rated their desire to smoke. RESULTS: Exposure to clips where smoking was portrayed as helping characters to relax was associated with a significantly stronger desire to smoke compared with clips where the motive for smoking was unclear. Desire to smoke was similar for clips where no motive was clear, social smoking clips, and rebellious smoking clips. DISCUSSION: These results suggest that the way that smoking is portrayed in movies is important in determining its effect on adolescent smoking.

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