Michael A. Tynan1; Jonathan R. Polansky2; Kori Titus3; Renata Atayeva3; Stanton A. Glantz, PhD4 (View author affiliations)

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What is already known about this topic?

The Surgeon General has concluded that there is a causal relationship between depictions of smoking in the movies and the initiation of smoking among young persons. The more frequently youths see smoking on screen, the more likely they are to start smoking; youths who are heavily exposed to onscreen smoking imagery are approximately two to three times more likely to begin smoking than are youths who are less exposed.

What is added by this report?

Previously reported declines in number of top-grossing movies with tobacco use has continued; however, the decline in the total number of tobacco incidents has not progressed since 2010. From 2010 to 2016, the total number of tobacco incidents in top-grossing movies increased, with a 43% increase occurring among movies rated PG-13.

What are the implications for public health practice?

Although there were fewer youth-rated films with tobacco incidents in 2016 than in 2010, total depictions of tobacco use has remained stable, concentrating such exposure in fewer films. Reducing tobacco incidents that appear in youth-related movies would prevent the initiation of tobacco use among young persons. An R rating for movies with tobacco use could potentially reduce the number of teen smokers by 18% and prevent their premature deaths from tobacco-related diseases.


I wonder what would happen if Hollywood/the media depicted smoking in the “antagonist” characters instead of the “protagonist” characters?  Deep down, most folks want to be perceived as good IMHO.  I wonder if teens would then self-identify by not picking up the tobacco addiction?


Dr. Raymond Oenbrink
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