Smoking and The Mass Media

woman smokeThe smoking habit seems to be influenced by the mass media after all, according to a recent report. The said report also tells how the mass media has the means to encourage as well as discourage people, especially the youth, to smoke. It is the first report on the subject that provides the conclusion that there is a causal relationship between exposure to the habit of smoking in the mass media and the youth starting the habit of smoking.

The said report, "The Role of the Media in Promoting and Reducing Tobacco Use", took four years to compile and involved expert analysis done on the subject by 23 authors according to senior scientific editor of the report, Melissa Wakefield. The conclusion of the report was made after analysis of around 1,000 scientific studies previously made on the role of media on tobacco use. There conclusions arrived at were the following:

  • Media plays a key role in creating knowledge, shaping opinions and attitudes as well as influencing behaviors among people and within communities. It covers a wide range of media communications, from specific brand advertising and promotion to public relations, corporate sponsorship as well as corporate and political advertising.
  • There is a causal relationship that exists between ads and promotions for tobacco and its increased use.
  • The tobacco industry tries to entice people to smoke based on three major themes- that tobacco provides satisfaction; toning down the dangers of tobacco so as not to provoke anxiety; and that of associating tobacco use with desirable outcomes in life such as social success. The themes usually target specific population groups such as males, females, the youth, as well as racial and ethnic groups.
  • The depiction of smoking still is continuing in movies. It was observed that the habit or the act of smoking can be seen in three quarters or more of contemporary box office hit movies. Exposure to these movies may lead people, especially the youth to smoke more.
  • On a positive note, the report also said that, according to controlled field experiments and population studies, mass media can also be effectively used to help in the campaign to reduce tobacco use and change youth perceptions about tobacco.

Over the past 40 years, the researchers have noted a 50 percent drop in smoking among the adult population. But there is still one in five Americans who still take up the habit. And according to recent statistics, there are still around 4,000 teens who take up their first cigarette each day.


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