Newswise – Children two to six years old are four times as likely to try to smoke later on if they have watched movies and DVDs in which the actors smoked. They are five times as likely to try drinking alcohol if they’ve seen movies in which actors drank. Most tobacco and alcohol prevention studies target children during adolescence, when kids actually start smoking and drinking, but now doctors realize they have to reach them much earlier?when they’ve first become interested in these addictions. And one way they become interested in them is by seeing them in the movies.

Dr. Madeline A. Dalton says, “Children’s play behavior suggests that they are highly attentive to the use and enjoyment of alcohol and tobacco and have well-established expectations about how cigarettes and alcohol fit into social settings.” In a make-believe store situation, researchers noticed that, “Several children were also highly aware of cigarette brands, as illustrated by the six-year-old boy who was able to identify the brand of cigarettes he was buying as Marlboros but could not identify the brand of his favorite cereal as Lucky Charms.”

Jeremy Laurance writes in The Independent that movies also trigger unsafe sex and drug use. And how often do we see the cops put on their seat belts before a car chase, much less see a movie hero put on a condom before having sex with a stranger?

Dr. Hasantha Gunasekera wants to remind filmmakers that most successful films are now shown around the world and so directors must consider their impact on public health. A single popular movie can reach billions of people, many of them children.

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