Thursday, September 07, 2006

Teen Smoking and the Movies

I recently traveled to Springfield, IL for my wife's 30th high school reunion. It was a festive affair and very small - her tiny parochial high school had only 72 classmates. While she seemed to enjoy it immensely, it was remarkably dull for the spouses who where brave enough to attend. We huddled together to make idle chat and few of us had much in common, but, thankfully, that made it a tad bit interesting. Suffice it to say that it was a small-town, potluck affair, so I grabbed by plate, loaded it with a sampling of the best that Southern Illinois could offer, an took a seat outside on the beautiful summer day with other like-minded shunned spouses.

Upon retreating outside, I spied another wedding party who was sharing the facility the same day. There they were, music blaring, the bride and groom nowhere to be seen, all the groomsmen in their tuxes with untied bow ties donning the hippest shades over their eyes, bridesmaids in gorgeous paint-on dresses with spaghetti straps (was I ever that young?). One notorious fellow was clearly three-sheets-to-the-wind, and another gent proceeding to light up the other kids' cigarettes. I did a double take as they took long drags on their cancer sticks, oblivious to the long-term effects of their actions, all with a devil-may-care attitude. Ah, youth!

Cigarettes are back, unfortunately. Here was proof in living color. And in my unscientific humble opinion, it seems to be back in spades. There are a myriad of causes and it has occurred despite all of the legislation against the cigarette industry. So why is it happening?

While there may be many causes, peer-influence remains strong, as do the influences of the movie industry, it seems.
"The attorneys general blame films that show smoking for influencing hundreds of thousands of U.S. adolescents to begin lighting up every year.

They cited a 2005 study released by Dartmouth Medical School that found 38 of every 100 youths who tried smoking did so because of their exposure to smoking in movies.

The attorneys general said 73 percent of all youth-rated movies show tobacco use."
Recently, there is a move to include anti-smoking videos before DVD movies. Not surprisingly, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is "considering" the move, but has yet to act.

The three short movies are "Body Bags", "Shards o Glass", and "1200." (Sorry, I couldn't find the link to this one). These are worth a look, if you haven't seen them. They're not new, but effective. Heck, show 'em to your kids.

The inclusion of these short features seems like a reasonable intervention to me. Kids aren't stupid, but sometimes peer-pressure drives them to make some pretty foolish choices. Certainly the cigarette industry seems to be really interested in increasing the addictive power of cigarettes. Additionally, the cigarette industry continues to use the movies as an effective location to perform global "product placement."

I say let kids make their own choice - they'll do the right thing if they get a balanced perspective. It'll be interesting to see if the MPAA succumbs to this increased pressure to save our youth.

For our kids' sake, I hope so.


Addendum: Other votes for the anti-smoking ads that work include this one from New York, or this one from the Netherlands, or this one from the UK.

1 comment:

Bad Penny said...

I have a daughter in college and was shocked to discover that smoking tobacco in a hookah is a current trend. In Berkeley there's even a place called the Hookah Dome where people go to buy different flavoured tobaccos and smoke them in water pipes.

I guess the forbidden is always attractive to the young.