Pediatricians should push for more stringent restrictions on advertising campaigns and the positive portrayal of tobacco and alcohol consumption in content aimed at children and adolescents, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement.
Researchers from the Council on Communications and Media said alcohol and tobacco companies often use celebrities, humor and other tactics to appeal to children and adolescents. “Advertising makes smoking and drinking seem like normative activities and may function as a ‘superpeer’ in subtly pressuring teenagers to experiment,” they wrote.
The glamorized image of smokers created by advertising fosters adolescents’ attraction to cigarettes and most likely contributed to the results of a 2009 study indicating that nearly half of all adolescents had tried smoking, according to the policy statement.
Research also linked the amount of advertising to a cigarette brand’s popularity. For example, the committee said Joe ...view middle of the document...
However, advertisements for various methods of contraception are “haphazard and rare and remain controversial,” according to the policy statement.
“Results of a number of correlational and longitudinal studies have confirmed that exposure to television and movie smoking is now one of the key factors that prompt teenagers to smoke,” the committee wrote, adding that most movies rated PG-13 contain tobacco use, even though they have a younger audience than R-rated movies.
Alcohol, however, is the drug that appears most often on television, according to the policy statement, with a drinking scene occurring ever 22 minutes. These depictions of alcohol consumption are usually humorous and do not address the negative ramifications of drinking.
Similar to studies involving tobacco use, research shows that film has a significant influence on adolescent drug use. Research shows, for instance, that watching at least three R-rated movies per month increases an adolescent’s likelihood of drinking alcohol by five times.
New media, such as the Internet and social networking sites, also contribute to the problem. Tobacco products and alcohol are easily available for purchase by underage children online. Furthermore, one study indicated that 40% of profiles on social networking sites contained references to substance abuse.
To fight this problem, the council urges physicians to advise parents to limit unsupervised media exposure, remove televisions from children’s bedrooms and restrict younger children to viewing only PG-13 movies. They should also encourage parents to co-view media with their children and discuss the content.
Physicians should also work with legislators to ban tobacco advertising from content aimed at children, restrict alcohol advertising and require the alcohol industry to provide information on its expenditures for media venues that include children and adolescents. Support for public service announcements is also important, the council said.
Cooperation between pediatricians and media, tobacco, alcohol and drug industries is also recommended so that these companies can be made aware of the damage that alcohol and tobacco cause in adolescents.