TV shows promote smoking

2 June 2009

A recent study by Dr Guy Eslick from the School of Public Health, says popular television shows such as The Simpsons promote tobacco use simply by showing it in so many episodes.

Dr Eslick examined the first 18 seasons of The Simpsons, about 400 episodes in total, and found that smoking was depicted 795 times, featuring in a negative context about 35 per cent of the time, positive 2 per cent and neutral 63 per cent.

"In the majority of cases the characters were adults, such as Patty and Selma and Krusty the Clown, although children and teenagers featured in around eight per cent of cases," said Dr Eslick.

Eslick also warns that cartoon characters have been show to be effective tools in marketing cigarettes to children, such as the long running Joe Camel campaign in the United States.

"This is of particular concern as existing research shows that the more that children are exposed to cigarettes in movies and on television, the more likely they were to take up the habit," he said.

"Our study concludes that even instances of smoking being reflected in a negative way, particularly among children and adolescent characters, can have an impact in prompting children to smoke cigarettes," said Dr Eslick.

This study appears in the recent issue of the Medical Journal of Australia.

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