Watching actors smoke could make kids vulnerable

July 8th, 2011 - 5:23 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 8 (IANS) Adolescents watching actors light a cigarette on screen are more vulnerable to tobacco use in life, a study conducted on Delhi students said Friday, confirming the link between “Bollywood and tobacco use among teenagers”.

“The odds of using tobacco once or more in a lifetime among students who were highly exposed to tobacco use occurrences in Bollywood films were more than twice as compared to those with low exposure,” revealed the study conducted by Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth (HRIDAY), an NGO.

The study was conducted among nearly 4,000 students from 12 schools across New Delhi to assess if they are currently using or have ever used tobacco, if they are receptive to tobacco promotions and their exposure to tobacco use in movies.

Considered to be the most prolific film producer in the world, Bollywood has earlier drawn flak from health activists for influencing youngsters’ tobacco use, leading to a ban on smoking scenes in new films and on television in 2005.

The government’s ruling to prohibit the depiction of smoking in films has been challenged by a renowned film producer on grounds of freedom of expression.

As the Delhi High Court ruled upholding the petition, the matter is now pending in the Supreme Court.

“Adolescents in this study had seen nearly 162 tobacco use occurrences from the 59 films that were shown. Results also suggest that boys are much more exposed than girls,” principal investigator Monika Arora told IANS.

The study revealed that inspite of the Control of Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), prohibiting all forms of direct and indirect advertising or promotion of tobacco products, nearly 7.3 percent adolescents reported owning a tobacco promotional item.

“This is the first systematic study in India to show an association between tobacco use depiction in Bollywood films and tobacco use among adolescents. The study confirms that children try to ape acts of tobacco use shown in films,” said Gaurang Nazar, manager and co-author, research at HRIDAY.

“We are also thinking of a study that brings across the depiction of smokeless tobacco (gutka, pan masala) use in films. Lighting a cigarette in style is picked up fast by kids,” added Nazar.

The study has also found that students who owned or were willing to wear tobacco branded merchandise had greater chances of being ever tobacco users.

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