Volume 94, Issue 84

Thursday, March 1, 2001


No re-vote in store for Huron top spot

Hopeful disqualified over posters

London public school gets health scare

Investigated U of T law prof's peers defend academic freedom

Study says movie star smokers make teenagers more likely to light up too


Planet Me

Study says movie star smokers make teenagers more likely to light up too

By Giovanni Paola
Gazette Staff

A recent study published by researchers at Nova Scotia's Dartmouth College suggests that if a teenager's favourite movie star smokes on the silver screen, chances are that they will light up too.

"Our research supports the idea that the portrayal of actors and actresses in contemporary film contributes to smoking amongst teenagers, especially those who admire a particular star," said Jennifer Tickle, lead researcher of the study at Dartmouth.

Tickle said researchers asked 632 youths aged 10-19 to name their favourite film stars and noted whether the respondents smoked or not. One of the study's major findings was that youths were three times more likely to smoke if their Hollywood hero or heroine lit up in at least three of the 178 films the researchers examined.

But the president and CEO of the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers' Council said he questioned the validity of the findings.

"Frankly, I think it has holes in it that you can drive a statistical analysis truck through," said Rob Parker.

He added that the study may indicate a correlation, but it does not prove a causal relationship.

Canadian tobacco companies have never advertised their brands in movies, though US cigarette makers did engage in 'product placement' in films up until a landmark court decision two years ago, Parker said.

He said the Canadian tobacco industry has no desire to advertise their products in movies, though it is fighting a court battle to loosen government restrictions on other forms of advertising.

Allan Gedalof, an English professor at Western who specializes in popular culture and the film industry, said smoking in film is often used to generate box office profits.

"Smoking in film adds an aura of sophistication, mystery and sexual mist to the actors and actresses," he said.

He also said it would be unfair to prevent filmmakers from incorporating smoking scenes in their art. "If a film company feels that smoking adds reality and quality to their film, they should have the right to include it without worrying about restrictions."

Still, Tickle said she would like to see a rating system developed that would account for smoking content in movies. "A rating is always given to a film based on its violence and sexual content. Why can't smoking be included in this rating?"

Andrew Swift, media relations co-ordinator for Health Canada, said the study provides additional ammunition for anti-smoking projects. "This is another perfect example that reinforces Health Canada's fight against smoking and the advertising of cigarettes," he said. "It's a good start."

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