July 31st, 2006

Lights, Camera, No Smoking

By Catherine Arnst
BusinessWeek

On Aug. 1, India will become the first country to ban images of smoking in all TV shows and new films. Under the directive, issued in June by Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, each time an actor lights up on TV, the screen must be blurred. Smoking scenes in existing films will be accompanied by a screen crawl warning of the dangers of smoking. The ban follows a previous directive requiring that, by next February, cigarette packs sold in India (where half the men and up to 21% of women smoke) must carry a skull and crossbones and photos of smoking-related ills—a mouth with cancerous tumors, for instance.

In the U.S., where 20% of adults smoke, a new study from Dartmouth College found that 75% of 2004’s youth-targeted films (rated G, PG, or PG-13) depicted smoking. In fact, among the 100 top-grossing films released each year from 1996 to 2004, such movies had more smoking in them than did R-rated ones. The study did find a decline in on-screen smoking overall, from 96% in 1996 to 77% in 2004. But “youths continue to see smoking in most of the movies they see,” says Dartmouth pediatrician James Sargent.

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