Should smoking scenes in movies automatically warrant an R-rating? A new study argues that they should.
In the study, which was published in a recent issue of Pediatrics, researchers concluded that kids who watch a lot of movies with cigarette-smoking characters, regardless of the film's rating, are more likely to start smoking themselves.
Researchers from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Lebanon, N.H., counted how many times a character was seen smoking in more than 500 top releases at the box office from the last few years. Then they put together random lists of 50 of these movies and asked 6,500 U.S. kids ages 10 to 14 which — if any — they had seen.
Comparing the data, researchers concluded that kids were exposed to an average of around 275 smoking scenes for films rated PG-13 and 93 scenes from R movies. They also found that kids who were exposed to the most "smoking-heavy" movies were more likely to start smoking themselves. In fact, for every batch of 500 smoking scenes the kids were exposed to, they were 33 to 49 percent more likely to try cigarettes over the next two years.
While I agree that kids who are exposed to smoking in media — whether it's TV, movies or online — are probably more likely to start smoking, I'm not sure that smoking scenes in and of themselves should warrant an R-rating. This is one of those studies that shows a link but not necessarily a cause.
Still, the researchers for this study argue that because kids tend to see more PG-13 movies, changing the system so that smoking automatically generates an R rating would reduce the number of kids who try cigarettes by 18 percent.
Do you think films in which characters are seen smoking should automatically earn an R-rating?