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Movies may influence Mexican American teens' smoking habits

December 4, 2009 |  4:17 pm

Movies can influence our lives -- how we dress, where we live and perhaps whether we smoke. A new study finds that the more Mexican American teens watch movie scenes that include smoking, the more likely they may be to light up.

K4udqenc Researchers surveyed 1,286 Mexican American adolescents -- some born in Mexico, some in the U.S. -- to find out how many smoking scenes they had watched and what were their smoking habits. They discovered a link between experimenting with cigarettes and the films: Numbers of new experimenters ranged from 5% among those who had no or little exposure to movies to 30% for teens who had viewed up to 600 scenes of smoking.

Where the teens were born factored into the results. For those born in Mexico, smoking scenes were the biggest forecaster for experimentation. For those born in the U.S., experimenters increased with the amount of exposure, but leveled off.

There were other correlations: Those with risk-taking tendencies and higher anxiety levels reported more exposure to movie smoking than low risk-takers and those with lower anxiety levels. Also, the more smokers in the house, the more exposure to movie smoking scenes.

"Parents need to limit their adolescents' access to R-rated movies, which research has shown have the most depictions of smoking," said Anna Wilkinson, the study's lead author, in a news release.

Wilkinson, assistant professor in University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center's department of epidemiology, went so far as to suggest that movies with smoking scenes receive an R rating "to reflect their potential harm."

The study appears in this month's issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

-Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Annie Wells / Los Angeles Times