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Public reaction to the portrayal of the tobacco industry in the film The Insider


OBJECTIVES To assess public perceptions of the tobacco industry and behavioural intentions for tobacco use in response to watching the filmThe Insider.

DESIGN Self administered pre-film survey conducted immediately before viewing and post-film telephone survey conducted within 1–5 weeks of viewing.

SETTING Two commercial cinemas in Melbourne, Australia.

SUBJECTS 323 cinema patrons were recruited before screening of target films. 182 watchedThe Insider, 141 watchedErin Brockovich.

INTERVENTIONS Subjects watched one of two films: The Insider which featured information about unethical conduct by the tobacco industry and negative information about the health effects of smoking, or the “control” film Erin Brockovich which had an analogous plot without anti-tobacco content.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES Pre-film questionnaire: assessed movie viewing habits, demographic characteristics, smoking status, attitudes towards the tobacco industry, intentions for smoking. Post-film questionnaire: assessed same attitudes and intentions plus questions on the film viewed and perceptions of smoking prevalence.

RESULTS 266 (82%) subjects completed the post-film survey. Attitudes toward the tobacco industry were unfavourable at baseline. Those who sawThe Insider held more negative views of business conduct by the tobacco industry than those who sawErin Brockovich, once pre-existing attitudes to the industry were controlled for. The Insider also appears to have promoted a short term reduction in intentions to smoke.

CONCLUSIONS Results of this study suggest that if people were recurrently exposed to anti-tobacco content in movies there is potential for a more substantial and lasting impact on attitudes toward the tobacco industry and smoking.

  • tobacco industry
  • movies
  • intervention
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