Movies make white kids smoke

Filed under: Teens, Health & Safety: Babies, Media, That's Entertainment

Not only does a recent study find that teenagers who watch R-rated movies are more likely to start smoking, but it also suggests that the movies are only influential over white teens, and not their black counterparts.

In fact, even when researchers took into account outside factors -- such as having a friend who smoked or poor scholastic performance -- the kids who watched the most R-rated movies were three times more susceptible to taking up the habit.

This is in spite of the fact that the law requires anyone under the age of 16 to be accompanied by a parent or guardian while attending an R-rated movie at the theater.

Race is also an important factor, though researchers aren't sure why. One theory is that because viewers more readily identify with characters "who are similar to themselves in sex, age or race," and because "the majority of screen actors are white," researchers speculate that black adolescents are less-likely to associate themselves with smoking actors on film.

Especially in light of previous studies showing that 75% of 10-14 year-olds of all races said they watched R-rated movies at home without their parents' knowledge, and that today's movies show smoking as often as they did in the 1950s, this could be a dangerous trend.

But who should be regulated kids' access to this kind of material? Is it Hollywood's fault for glamorizing smoking, or are parents at fault for allowing their children to view these films before they're old enough?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.