While parents and politicians argue over who should play policeman, television and movies continue to hook kids on alcohol and tobacco.
Two new studies make the situation clearer than ever.
Children and early teens who see R-rated movies are much more likely to smoke and drink than those who don't, says a report in the January-February edition of the medical journal Effective Clinical Practice. Of those children with no parental restrictions on their seeing R-rated movies, 46 percent drank alcohol and 35 percent smoked. In families where R-rated movie-watching was completely banned, only 4 percent of children drank alcohol and 2 percent smoked.
The study urges parents to restrict their children from seeing R-rated films, and, in a related editorial, calls on the movie industry to include smoking as a reason for a film to rate an R rating.
Meanwhile, teen drinking has reached "epidemic proportions," according to another report, released this week. The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University in New York found 31 percent of high school students binge drink at least once a month. It blamed the entertainment industry for glamorizing alcohol use while rarely showing its ill effects.
Nearly 50 percent of G-rated films show "characters using alcohol, often without consequence," the report says. In addition, "alcohol advertising often uses images that appeal to kids (e.g. Budweiser's talking lizards, Budweiser's Spuds MacKenzie dog)." The report urges legislators to ban all alcohol ads, including beer ads, from television.
The CASA report is online at www.casacolumbia.org. The Effective Clinical Practice report is found at www.acponline.org/journals/ecp/.