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As Smoking Decreases, Drinking Increases in U.S. Movies

Update Date: May 27, 2013 04:04 PM EDT

A new study reveals that while smoking has decreased in U.S. movies, drinking has increased in movies rated acceptable for young audiences.

The study, published by JAMA Pediatrics, reveals that since the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) in 1998, tobacco brand producer placements in movies have declined, but alcohol placements, which are subject only industry self-regulation, have increased.

Researchers said the findings are important because there is increasing evidence that movies significantly influence substance use behaviors during teenage years. Not only has children's exposure to movie imagery of tobacco been linked to smoking among adolescents, imagery of alcohol has also been linked to early onset of drinking, heavier drinking and abuse of alcohol.

Study author Elaina Bergamini, of the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth University, New Hampshire, and her team looked at recent trends for tobacco and alcohol use in movies by analyzing the top 100 box-office movie hits released in the U.S. between 1996 and 2009.

The findings revealed that after implementation of the MSA in 1998, tobacco brand product appearances decreased by 7 percent each year to 22 per year after 2006. Researchers found that the MSA resulted in a decrease in tobacco screen time for youth and adult rated movies at 42.3 percent and 85.4 percent.  However, alcohol brand product appearances in youth-rated movies nearly doubled from 80 to 145 per year during the study period.  Researchers said this led to an increase of 5.2 appearances per year.

"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," researchers wrote in the study.

"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 concluded.

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