Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

September 16th, 2015:

How smoking in movies drives kids to become smokers

So it’s TIFF week, and what better time than now to talk about the influence that movies can have on our health.

More specifically, I want to focus on the effect that on-screen smoking has on young audiences.

The Ontario Tobacco Research Unit just released a report that analyzes the effect of smoking in movies on youth. And the results are compelling.

The first point is that most movies do have at least one scene which portrays a character smoking.

In fact, looking at the top-grossing movies between 2004 and 2014, they found that 56 per cent of them portrayed smoking, and 86 per cent of those were youth rated, with only 14 per cent being R-rated.

But does watching someone smoking on screen actually influence adolescents to start smoking? Well as it turns out, the answer is yes, and there are lots of studies that back this up.

For example, in a 2004 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, scientists Janet M. Distefan and colleagues asked adolescents who their favorite actors were, and those kids whose favorite actor had been portrayed smoking in at least two movies were 36 per cent more likely to try smoking.

In a 2009 study published in Addiction, JD Sargent and R Hanewinkel showed that kids aged 11-15 who had been exposed to smoking in the movies that they had watched had 2.8 times the odds of smoking one year later, compared to kids who had not been exposed.

In 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control put together results from 17 different studies and found that adolescents and young adults who had watched movies with smoking scenes were about twice as likely to end up smoking , compared to those who hadn’t.

Some of these studies were cross-sectional (meaning that they collected data at one point in time) and others longitudinal (meaning that they followed peoples’ movie watching habits and smoking status over time).

However, we also have experimental studies where youths were exposed to movies with and without smoking and their behaviour monitored after watching the movie.

Again, youths who had watched movies with smoking scenes were more likely to consider smoking to be “socially acceptable” and more likely to smoke a cigarette.

Ultimately, this effect leads a lot of young people to start smoking.

A 2012 analysis by Stanton Glantz put together results from five different studies and found that 37 per cent of all adolescent smokers are recruited to smoking by seeing it in movies.

In Ontario, this amounts to 185,000 kids who will start smoking because of what they see in movies.

In turn, 32 per cent of these teens, or 59,000 will eventually die from tobacco-related diseases like heart attack, stroke, lung disease and cancer, costing the healthcare system an extra $1.1 billion along the way.

So what can we do about it?

The simple solution supported by the U.S. Surgeon General and the World Health Organization is to make any movie with smoking scenes an R-rated movie.

Although this isn’t perfect because some kids still end up watching R-rated movies, it would cut the new smokers influenced by movies in half.

The U.S. Surgeon General suggests that this would avert one million tobacco deaths among U.S. children and teens alive today.

If we made this change to our rating system in Ontario, it would prevent 95,000 kids from smoking, save 30,000 smoking-related deaths, and save our healthcare system over $568 million in the process.

Although quit rates have gone up and smoking rates have come down to 17 per cent in this country, smoking among youths aged 20-24 is still at 27 per cent in Canada, and this is the key demographic that cigarette marketers are targeting for a lifetime of addiction.

And because of laws that now prohibit tobacco companies from advertising smoking directly to youth, portrayal of smoking in movies has become a key marketing tool for these companies.

What I hear most often from my smoking patients is that they wish they had never started.

And we now know that protecting kids from the influence of smoking in movies today is a key to preventing them from becoming smokers tomorrow.

Impact of the removal of light and mild descriptors from cigarette packages in Ontario, Canada: switching to “light replacement” brand variants



This study assessed cessation and brand switching among smokers in Ontario, Canada after tobacco companies’ voluntary removal of ‘light’ and ‘mild’ descriptors from cigarette packages.


We analyzed longitudinal data on brand preference and cessation from a cohort of smokers (n=632) in the Ontario Tobacco Survey in Canada from 2006 to 2008 with a longitudinal regression model.


While cessation differed by brand variant prior to the ban (7% light vs. 3% regular; P<0.05), it did not differ by brand variant after the ban was implemented. In 2008, when light cigarette brand variants were no longer available, 33% of the sample still reported smoking lights and 31% smoked light replacement brand variants. During each subsequent follow-up, light brand smokers had 2 times the odds of smoking regular brand variants (Adjusted OR: 2.03, 95% CI 1.80,2.29), and almost 5 times the odds of using light replacement brand variants (Adjusted OR: 4.87, 95% CI 4.07,5.84), respectively, compared to continuing to smoke lights.


Even after removing misleading descriptors from cigarette packs, smokers continued to report using light brand variants, and many switched to newly introduced light replacement brand variants. After full implementation of the ban, cessation did not vary by brand variant.

WHO European Region Member States commit to denormalizing tobacco

Copenhagen and Vilnius — Ministers of health from the 53 Member States of the WHO European Region signed up to a roadmap that will make it possible for coming generations to make tobacco a thing of the past. The roadmap was presented to the 65th session of the Regional Committee for Europe in Vilnius, Lithuania,

“The generation growing up now cannot comprehend that people used to smoke on airplanes, buses, in restaurants or in offices. The achievements of the past 20 years show that the dream of a Europe where tobacco control has succeeded is not unrealistic. The gains will be huge if tobacco control succeeds, but there is hard work ahead. Governments must fully implement the measures in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and define a common goal: a Europe where tobacco is not a social norm,” said Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, Regional Director for Europe.

In Turkmenistan in December 2013, Member States adopted a declaration with a vision of a Europe in which tobacco is a thing of the past. The roadmap follows up on that commitment.

Denormalizing tobacco

The roadmap lists the actions with the greatest impact in specific areas. One area involves the denormalization of tobacco, by:

– enforcing smoke-free legislation, especially in children’s environments, such as schools and child care facilities, private homes and cars carrying children;

– enforcing comprehensive bans on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and working with the entertainment industry on the portrayal of smoking and the placement of tobacco products in the media; and

– increasing public awareness through educational initiatives to prevent young people from starting to smoke, informing them about the risks of children exposed to second-hand smoke, particularly in cars and homes, and training health care and family support workers to deliver brief interventions for smoking cessation as a routine part of their work.

Scotland has set the goal of creating a generation of young people who do not want to smoke, by “denormalizing” measures, such as smoke-free laws in places where children gather, peer-based prevention programmes for adolescents, targeting parents for cessation and encouraging families to have smoke-free homes.

A call for international cooperation

No government can succeed on its own in banning tobacco, as advertising, illicit trade and trade policies are not limited by geographical borders. Some countries have announced a target year to end tobacco use in their populations: Ireland by 2025, Finland by 2040 and Scotland by 2034. They are paving the way to a tobacco-free future by introducing plain packaging, banning smoking in cars carrying children and aiming for a tobacco-free millennial generation. Reaching this target will demand international cooperation to ensure effective implementation. The roadmap specifies the need for partnerships to make tobacco a thing of the past, closing the gap between countries to reach the common destination.

By signing up to the roadmap, countries have shown that Europe’s attainment of the global goal on tobacco use is within reach. Governments are urged to set national targets for reducing the use of tobacco by 2025 and promoting a cross-government approach to tobacco control involving ministries of health, finance, agriculture, education, environment, social affairs and trade.

Use of Investigational Tobacco Products

Download (PDF, 966KB)

FDA Halts Sale of Four R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Products

Retailers have 30 days to dispose of inventory for Camel Crush Bold, Pall Mall Deep Set Recessed Filter, Pall Mall Deep Set Recessed Filter Menthol and Vantage Tech 13.

September 16, 2015

​WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued orders that will stop the further sale and distribution of four currently marketed R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company cigarette products—including its Camel Crush Bold brand—because the company’s submissions for these products did not meet requirements set forth in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act).

The FDA’s evaluation found that Camel Crush Bold, Pall Mall Deep Set Recessed Filter, Pall Mall Deep Set Recessed Filter Menthol and Vantage Tech 13 cigarettes were not substantially equivalent (NSE) to their respective “predicate” products (i.e., products that were commercially marketed as of Feb. 15, 2007) as identified by the manufacturer. The FDA says that at this time, these products can no longer be sold, distributed, imported or marketed in interstate commerce.

“We believe that our substantial equivalent applications fully satisfied the guidance the agency provided, and we respectfully disagree with their evaluations of the products in question,” said Jeffery S. Gentry, Ph.D., executive vice president of operations and chief scientific officer for R.J. Reynolds, in a statement. “We supplied the agency with extensive information on each of the products, and responded to all of the agency’s questions. Our product stewardship process is rigorous and ensures that we are producing the highest quality products that meet regulatory requirements.”

All of the brands included in the order represent a very small portion of R.J. Reynolds’ business, less than 0.4 share of market. “Our submissions to the agency on these brands were comprehensive and we believe we effectively demonstrated substantial equivalence. We’re examining all of our options at this time,” Gentry said.

When the FDA issues an NSE order, the tobacco product in inventory, including at a retail location, becomes adulterated and misbranded. As a result, it is illegal to sell or distribute the product in interstate commerce, or sell or distribute the product received from interstate commerce. Doing so may result in the FDA initiating enforcement action, including seizure, without further notice.

Recognizing that retailers may have limited options for disposing of products in their current inventories, the FDA does not intend to take enforcement action for 30 days on previously purchased products that a retailer has in its inventory. Importantly, the policy does not apply to inventory purchased by retailers after the date of the order. Retailers are encouraged to contact their supplier or manufacturer to discuss possible options for existing inventories at specific retailer locations