Tob Control 13:400-402 doi:10.1136/tc.2003.007211
  • Research paper

Tobacco use in popular movies during the past decade

  1. C Mekemson1,
  2. D Glik2,
  3. K Titus1,
  4. A Myerson2,
  5. A Shaivitz3,
  6. A Ang4,
  7. S Mitchell1
  1. 1American Lung Association of Sacramento Emigrant Trails, STARS Project, Sacramento, California, USA
  2. 2University of California at Los Angeles, UCLA School of Public Health, Health and Media Research Group, Los Angeles, California, USA
  3. 3Hollywood Health and Society, University of Southern California, Norman Lear Center, Los Angeles, California, USA
  4. 4UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Los Angeles, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor Deborah Glik
 UCLA School of Public Health, PO Box 951772, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1772, USA;
  • Received 12 December 2003
  • Accepted 27 June 2004


Objective: The top 50 commercially successful films released per year from 1991 to 2000 were content coded to assess trends in tobacco use over time and attributes of films predictive of higher smoking rates.

Design: This observational study used media content analysis methods to generate data about tobacco use depictions in films studied (n  =  497). Films are the basic unit of analysis. Once films were coded and preliminary analysis completed, outcome data were transformed to approximate multivariate normality before being analysed with general linear models and longitudinal mixed method regression methods.

Main outcome measures: Tobacco use per minute of film was the main outcome measure used. Predictor variables include attributes of films and actors. Tobacco use was defined as any cigarette, cigar, and chewing tobacco use as well as the display of smoke and cigarette paraphernalia such as ashtrays, brand names, or logos within frames of films reviewed.

Results: Smoking rates in the top films fluctuated yearly over the decade with an overall modest downward trend (p < 0.005), with the exception of R rated films where rates went up.

Conclusions: The decrease in smoking rates found in films in the past decade is modest given extensive efforts to educate the entertainment industry on this issue over the past decade. Monitoring, education, advocacy, and policy change to bring tobacco depiction rates down further should continue.


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