TV and Tobacco – A dangerous match for our teens

Research indicates that there is a connection between watching tobacco use on-screen and starting to smoke.

This informational series comes to you in partnership with the Tuscarawas County Anti-Drug Coalition.

The U.S. Surgeon General found that people ages 12 to 17 who saw more examples of tobacco use in movies are twice as likely to start smoking, compared with those who saw fewer examples.

Per the U.S. Surgeon General: Youth are vulnerable to social and environmental influences to use tobacco; messages and images that make tobacco use appealing to them are everywhere.

  • Young people want to fit in with their peers. Images in tobacco marketing make tobacco use look appealing to this age group.
  • Youth and young adults see smoking in their social circles, movies they watch, video games they play, websites they visit, and many communities where they live. Smoking is often portrayed as a social norm, and young people exposed to these images are more likely to smoke.
  • Youth identify with peers they see as social leaders and may imitate their behavior; those whose friends or siblings smoke are more likely to smoke.
  • Youth who are exposed to images of smoking in movies are more likely to smoke. Those who get the most exposure to onscreen smoking are about twice as likely to begin smoking as those who get the least exposure. Images of smoking in movies have declined over the past decade; however, in 2010 nearly a third of top-grossing movies produced for children—those with ratings of G, PG, or PG-13— contained images of smoking.

Officials indicate that with online streaming in such high demand there are more ways than ever for teens to see characters smoking. A study found that the most popular series for people between ages 15 and 24 on one streaming service depicted more characters who smoked onscreen than shows on “regular” broadcast TV.

Additionally, reports note broadcast and cable TV programs also depicted more characters smoking in 2019 than they showed in 2018, nearly two and a half times more tobacco images.

It is important for parents to be aware of the TV/tobacco connection and to have regular, open conversations with your teen, according to the Tuscarawas County Anti-Drug Coalition. Talk to your teen about the dangers, risks, and negative results smoking has.

For more information on the effects of tobacco on youth as well as resources and conversation starters, visit


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