by Carol Josel
Art Linkletter knew: kids say the darndest things. They also do the darndest things, and, all-too-often, imitate the darndest things. And that’s not always a good thing, especially when it comes to smoking.
Common Sense Media found that, 57% of parents are worried about their children overusing media, and 68% of them acknowledge that “media generally impacted their kids’ health.” Yet only 44% are concerned about their kids’ smoking, and 87% don’t think media ups the chances of their children lighting up.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
Reportedly, 50% of all kids who start smoking do so because they’re imitating what they see in the movies-and one-third of them will likely die from a smoking-related disease.
And it’s no accident that stars are puffing away on the big (and little) screen. Way back in 1983, Smoke Free Movies reports that then-president of Phillip Morris International, Hamish Maxwell said, “I do feel heartened at the increasing number of occasions when I go to a movie and see a pack of cigarettes in the hands of a leading lady. This is in sharp contrast to the state of affairs just a few years ago when cigarettes rarely showed up on camera. We must continue to exploit new opportunities to get cigarettes on screen and into the hands of smokers.”
And they have-with stunning success and devastating effect. “In fact,” says Common Sense Media’s CEO, James Steyer, “Smoking in the movies is one of the most effective ways to get kids to pick up the habit.” Moreover, according to a Dartmouth Medical School report, smoking shows up in 74% of all movies, leading many teens to follow suit.
Reports the American Medical Association, almost 4,000 teens start smoking every day, and 50% of them do so because they saw it in the movies. And don’t think the PG-13 rating is any help, since 75% such movies portray an actor/actress lighting up.
More Smoking Facts:
o 90% of smokers start before their 21st birthday-and have the hardest time quitting.
o About 4.5 million U.S. adolescents smoke.
o Almost 20% of 12th graders, 12% of 10th graders, and 5.5% of 8th graders smoke daily.
And don’t think your child is immune from the effects of watching their favorite stars puffing away on screen just because they’re involved in sports. It helps, but it’s no guarantee. In fact, a recent study conducted by researchers at Dartmouth Medical School’s Hood Center for Children and Families proves that point, finding that between 30% and 50% of adolescent smokers took their lead from the movies.
The study also established that, while those not involved in sports were two times as likely to smoke as those who were, it concluded that, “Movie smoking exposure increases the risk of established smoking among both team sports participants and non-participants. Parents, teachers, coaches, and clinicians should be aware that encouraging team sports participation in tandem with minimizing early exposure to movie smoking may offer the greatest likelihood of preventing youth smoking.”
Lead researcher Anna M. Adachi-Mejia put it this way: “Parents need to be aware of the need to minimize their child’s exposure to movie smoking. So even if their child plays a sport, that’s not enough.”
What can parents do? Besides involving your children in sports activities and reducing the chances of their viewing smoking movies, at the very least also . . .
1. Quit smoking if you’re already hooked-and let your kids know how you got started and how hard it is to give up the habit.
2. Watch television and movies together-and when smoking is portrayed, speak up about the harmful effects of such behavior.
3. Share the hard facts about smoking-related diseases-and the deaths that result.
4. Try not to expose your 2- to 8-year-olds to movie smoking-but if/when it happens, stress smoking’s negatives.
5. Sign up email alerts at Smoke Free Movies.
6. Add your name to the global petition to help stop “youth-oriented movies recruiting new young smokers around the world,” by going to thepetitionsite.
7. Start writing letters-your friends should, as well-to media studios. Names and addresses can be found at Smoke Free Movies.
8. Let your feelings be known to the managers of your local movies theaters and such video retailers as Blockbuster and Netflix, either in writing or in person.
9. Be part of the Movie Smoking Scorecard on Facebook.
Carol is a learning specialist who worked with middle school children and their parents at the Methacton School District in Pennsylvania for more than 25 years and now supervises student teachers at Gwynedd-Mercy College. Along with the booklet, 149 Parenting School-Wise Tips: Intermediate Grades & Up, and numerous articles in such publications as Teaching Pre-K-8 and Curious Parents, she has authored three successful learning guidebooks: Getting School-Wise: A Student Guidebook, Other-Wise and School-Wise: A Parent Guidebook, and ESL Activities for Every Month of the School Year. Carol also writes for examiner.com; find her articles at http://www.examiner.com/x-6261-Montgomery-County-Wise-Parenting-Examiner For more information, go to http://www.schoolwisebooks.com or contact Carol at email@example.com.
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