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Saturday February 23rd, 2013

Posted at 10:00am

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While Hollywood is preparing to roll out the red carpet for Sunday night’s 85th Annual Academy Awards, One Life, One You, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit’s Youth Engagement Team is raising the red flag about tobacco use in film.

As part of the International Week of Action on Smoke-Free Movies, which runs from February 19th to 24th, local youth are pointing out that almost 90 percent of this year’s Oscar-nominated films rated for younger audiences (PG or 14A) depict tobacco use.

“With the Oscars right around the corner, we know that people are talking about movies. We want one of the topics of conversation to be the impact depictions of smoking in movies can have on youth and their decision to start smoking,” says Theresa Sarkis, Youth Engagement Specialist with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit. “Research data suggests that 44 percent of the estimated 300,000 Canadian teens who smoke, first lit up because they saw a character smoking in a film. We need to reverse that trend.”

A review of Oscar nominated films released in 2012 shows that 61 percent showed tobacco-related imagery. Of these films 88 percent were rated either PG or 14A in Ontario, exposing young viewers to depictions of smoking and tobacco use.

In November of 1998, tobacco companies in the United States entered into a legally-binding agreement with state attorneys general that prohibited paid brand placement in entertainment accessible to young people. Despite this prohibition, depictions of smoking in movies increased between 1998 and 2005, particularly in blockbuster films.

“Hollywood plays an important role in shaping popular culture and fashion trends. What young people see on screen can play a big role in how they behave themselves,” says Sarkis. “Even though tobacco use has been on the decline in recent years, the amount of smoking that’s in films gives a misleading impression of reality. The film ratings system needs to be changed so that our youth aren’t exposed to these images and aren’t tempted to start smoking.”

Several studies conducted in the United States and New Zealand over the last few decades have suggested that the more teens see tobacco use in films, the greater the likelihood that they will start smoking themselves.

For more information visit the ‘Hooked by Hollywood’ website here.

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