TReND: Smoking in the Movies: Examining Effects on Diverse Audiences

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About the Project

Rationale: Entertainment media are among the most significant forces of socialization for audiences, providing ideas on acceptable social norms, lifestyles and behaviors. In the realm of public health, it has been suggested that exposure to smoking in movies and other entertainment media could potentially lead to smoking initiation among teenagers. Yet despite the moderately strong evidence of an association between movies and smoking, it is less clear whether these effects are uniform across different racial, ethnic and social class groups.

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to examine the state-of-science on effects of tobacco use depiction in entertainment media on initiation and long-term use of tobacco use among diverse audiences. The broad research question guiding this project is given the differences in media exposure and movie-going patterns among different racial and ethnic groups, and the differential reactions to media content, are the effects of tobacco use depiction likely to vary by racial/ethnic and social class backgrounds? Are the effects, if any, likely to be limited to beliefs and initiation or are they likely to extend to more sustained use? TReND’s investigators will follow a three-step approach to examine the research question: (1) conduct an extensive review of the literature on entertainment media exposure and tobacco use, with a particular attention to movies; (2) convene a meeting of experts to discuss the current state of the evidence, develop a broad framework for what we know and the gaps in current research, and identify broad areas for future research; and (3) disseminate the products of the meeting to facilitate further research and action.

Impact: As tentative policy steps are being considered to minimize the impact of smoking in movies, policy-makers must understand that these actions are unlikely to affect all audience sub-groups if they are developed based on evidence generated from one population sub-group. To develop and implement effective policy, it is critical to examine and assess the current evidence, and build a broader empirical base from all population sub-groups. It is our hope that the results from this project will lay the ground for this research and future policy efforts.

Research Team

Principal Investigators
K. Vish Viswanath, Ph.D.
Harvard School of Public Health
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Donna Vallone, Ph.D., M.P.H.
American Legacy Foundation

Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, Ph.D., M.P.H.
University of Southern California

Laura Beebe, Ph.D.
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

Brian Flaherty, Ph.D.
University of Washington

Eliseo Peres-Stables, MD
University of California, San Francisco

Dennis Trinidad, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Claremont Graduate University

Project Staff
Josephine Crisostomo, M.P.H. (Project Director)
Center for Community-Based Research
Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Neyha Sehgal, M.P.H.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Lisa Lowery, BS
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Contact Us

Principal Investigator
K. Vish Viswanath, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Society, Human Development and Health
Harvard School of Public Health
Department of Medical Oncology
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Project Director
Josephine Crisostomo, M.P.H.
Center for Community-Based Research
Department of Medical Oncology
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Project Activities and Findings

TReND Smoking in the Movies: White Paper (not yet available).

TReND Smoking in the Movies Meeting, October 14-15, 2010: Agenda, Presenters and Abstracts, and Summary Report (not yet available).

Special journal issue highlighting TReND Smoking in the Movies meeting findings and recommendations (not yet available).

Other Resources and Publications

Website Resources

Smoke-Free Movies, UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education

Select Scientific Publications and Articles

Bryant J. and Oliver MB (Eds). Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research, 3rd edition. New York, NY: Routledge.

Dalton MA, Sargent JD, Beach ML, Titus-Ernstoff L, Gibson JJ, Ahrens MB, Tickle JJ, Heatherton TF (2003). Effect of viewing smoking in movies on adolescent smoking initiation: a cohort study. Lancet; 362(9380):281-5.

Green MC (2006). Narratives and cancer communication. Journal of Communication exit disclaimer; 56: S163-S183.

National Cancer Institute. The Role of the Media in Promoting and Reducing Tobacco Use. Tobacco Control Monograph No. 19. Bethesda, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute. NIH Pub. No. 07-6242, June 2008.

Sargent JD, Dalton MA, Beach ML, Mott LA, Tickle JJ, Ahrens MB, Heatherton TF (2002). Viewing tobacco use in movies: Does it shape attitudes that mediate adolescent smoking? Am J Prev Med; 22(3):137-45.

Sargent JD, Stoolmiller M, Worth KA, Dal Cin S, Wills TA, Gibbons FX, Gerrard M, Tanski S (2007). Exposure to smoking depictions in movies: Its association with established adolescent smoking. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med; 161(9):849-56.

Viswanath K (2006). Public communications and its role in reducing and eliminating health disparities . In G. E.Thomson, F. Mitchell & M. B. Williams (Eds.), Examining the Health Disparities Research Plan of the National Institutes of Health: Unfinished Business (pp. 215-253). Washington, D.C.: Institute of Medicine.

Wakefield M, Flay B, Nichter M, Giovino G (2003). Effects of anti-smoking advertising on youth smoking: A review. J Health Communication; 8(3):229-47.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and American Legacy Foundation are proud to fund the Tobacco Research Network on Disparities (TReND). Previous support has also been provided by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office on Women’s Health, NCI Office of Women’s Health, and the NCI Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities.