The on-screen smoking of famous actors such asLeonardo DiCaprio, Sharon Stone and John Travolta influences smoking amongtheir teenage fans. A new study published today shows that adolescents that smoke are more likely to havefavourite actors that smoke on screen. The finding supports the argument that smoking in films by stars admiredby teenagers contributes to teenage smoking. Clive Bates, Director of ASH, said:

“We don't want to censordirectors and actors by banning smoking in films by law, but we do call on themto recognise the impact they have on their young fans and think about harm theyare doing. Hollywood megastars can findthe best support in the world to stop smoking if they want, but for young fansthe influence of their favourite actors could be the start of a lifetimestruggle with nicotine addiction.

“These teenagers may becopying their favourite movie star's smoking or whether they choose to be fansof stars that make them feel comfortable about smoking, but either way. itsuggests that smoking on screen nurtures and sustains smoking among teenagemovie fans ­ and everybody should be worried about that.”

In the light of the study, ASH has written to theBritish Board of Film Classification (see letter) drawingattention to the findings and requesting that smoking be included in thedecision about certification. JohnConnolly, ASH's new specialist on tobacco advertising:

“Smoking may seem lesstroubling than sex and violence at first sight, but smoking in films may be anincubator nurturing teenage smoking, and therefore a gateway to a long term andpowerful addiction ­ which ultimately causes terrible damage. While we don't want smoking in films banned,there is a good case to upgrade the age classification to 15 if the filmfeatures smoking by aspirational role models ­ such as megastar young actors.”

The new study follows recent findings published in TheLancet about the impact of product placement in films in whichtobacco manufacturers pay to have their products featured or for actors tosmoke.

“There is a differencebetween a director's independent decision to use smoking for a particulareffect, and payment to place smoking or particular brands in films. Product placement is a form of advertisingand should be banned by law, but the new findings should cause every directoror actor to think twice before using smoking as a prop ­ whether or not theyare paid for it.” said Connolly.

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