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Editor,—Smoking in the movies transmits the message, particularly to young people, that tobacco use is a widespread and acceptable behaviour.1 2We have shown that, between 1990 and 1996, smoking in movies increased rapidly and reached levels at or above the levels seen in the 1960s.3 4
Using the same methods as in our earlier work,3 4we selected five films at random (Con Air,Contact, Face/Off, Good Will Hunting, and My Best Friend’s Wedding) from the 20 top-grossing films in 1997. Tobacco use in the movies remains high (figure). The prevalence of tobacco use in films continues to substantially overstate use in reality. Sixty per cent of major male characters and 30% of major female characters smoked. (Each film has four “major” characters, the male protagonist and antagonist and the female protagonist and antagonist.) The messages associated with tobacco use continue to mirror tobacco industry advertising themes of rebellion and independence.
Public health advocates are not making progress in encouraging film makers to reduce tobacco use in films.
This work was supported by Grant CA-61021 from the National Cancer Institute.