Newswise – Seven years after tobacco companies signed the MasterSettlement Agreement, which prohibited them from paying fortobacco brand appearances in movies, the number of tobaccobrand appearances in movies has decreased. Buttobacco placements in movies made especially for teens haveactually INCREASED. According to psychiatrists, suicidalthoughts or attempts are associated with daily smoking incurrent smokers, but not former smokers.

A recent issue of the Journal of the American MedicalAssociation (JAMA), analyzed the number of tobacco brandappearances in 400 movies released before the MasterSettlement Agreement (in the 3 year period between 1996 and1999) and 400 movies released after it was signed (in theperiod between 2000 and 2003). They found that there was adecline in the number of tobacco packs shown inR-rated movies after the agreement. But in 1 out of 8 PG-13movies, which are aimed especially at adolescent audiences(who are most at risk for starting to smoke) continued tofeature tobacco brands.

“[This] was a big surprise,” says pediatrician AnnaAdachi-Mejia. “Although we saw an overall decline, thepercentage of PG-13 movies with tobacco brands didn’tdecrease post-MSA. That’s worrisome because part of theintent of the MSA was to reduce tobacco advertising directedtowards youth, and our study demonstrates that tobaccobrands are still appearing in films rated for adolescents.”

The number of movies with tobacco brand appearances (definedin the study as the depiction of a tobacco brand name, logo,or identifiable trademark) dropped from 20.8% to 10.5% intop box-office films after the agreement took effect.However, while the percentage of R-rated movies with tobaccobrand appearances decreased by 55.4% after 1999, there was aslight INCREASE in the percentage of PG-13 movies withtobacco brand appearances.

Studies have shown that seeing movie stars smoke in moviesis associated with teenagers starting to smoke. If tobaccocompanies are not PAYING movie studios to feature theirtobacco brands, they are not in violation of the MSA, evenif all of the actors in the film are shown smoking. However, Dr.Adachi-Mejia notes that “the continued presence of tobaccobrand appearances in movies, whether paid for or not,undermines the intent of the MSA and limits the favorableimpact the MSA could have on preventing youth smoking.”

A link between cigarette smoking and suicide has beenreported in studies since the 1970s. It’s believed thatsmoking may be a symptom of depression, especially inteens?the age group at the highest risk for suicide.

Dr. Naomi Breslau examined the association between cigarettesmoking and suicidal thoughts and attempts. Smokers aged 21to 30 years were interviewed in 1989 and again in 1992,1994, and 1999-2001. Each time, they were asked about theirlifetime smoking history, whether they were now dailysmokers or had been in the past. Possible psychiatricdisorders were taken into consideration. Nearly nine hundredpeople participated in this study.

During the ten-year period, nineteen participants attemptedsuicide, while 130 reported having suicidal thoughts. Theresearchers found that current daily smoking (but not pastsmoking) predicted suicidal thoughts or attempts. Does thismean that the act of smoking is depressing, probably becausepeople know it’s bad for their health but cannot stop?(nicotine is as addictive as heroin). Or are theresubstances in the tobacco that actually cause depression?The answer is still unknown.

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Whether smoking causes depression or not, let’s face it:it’s an unhealthy habit that offends other people. Need helpquitting? Consult thekitchenwitch. If yousubscribe, you can still hear Anne Strieber’swonderful interview with Patricia Telesco.

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