OBJECTIVE: To study the presentation of smoking in motion pictures. DESIGN: This study examined tobacco use in a random sample of five of the top 20 grossing films each year from 1990-1996 and combined these data with our earlier study of tobacco use in films that covered 1960-1990. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Rate of tobacco use per minute of film, characters who are smoking, motivation to smoke. RESULTS: The overall rate of tobacco use appears to have "bottomed out" in the 1980s and is now increasing back to levels observed in the 1960s. The presentation of tobacco use in films is increasingly discordant with reality, because tobacco use in the population continues to drop. Films continue to portray smokers as successful white males, although portrayal of smoking among women is increasing. CONCLUSIONS: The gap between the representation of tobacco use in films and the reality of tobacco continues to widen, with the prevalence of smoking among lead characters four times the smoking prevalence among comparable individuals in society at large.
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