Influence of Smoking Cues in Movies on Children's Beliefs About Smoking
OBJECTIVE: Experimental research has revealed that short exposure to movie smoking affects beliefs about smoking in adolescents. In this study, we tested that association in children.
METHODS: In 2 experiments, participants were exposed to either a cartoon or family-oriented movie and randomly assigned to 20-minute segments with or without smoking characters. Data collection took place at elementary schools. A total of 101 children (8-10 years; 47.5% boys) were exposed to a cartoon, and in a second experiment, 105 children (8-11 years; 56.2% boys) were exposed to a family-oriented movie. Beliefs about smoking (assessed by questionnaire) and implicit associations toward smoking (single target implicit association task) were assessed after watching the movie.
RESULTS: The majority of both samples of children viewed smoking unfavorably. Exposure to movie smoking had no effect on implicit associations toward smoking when experiments were analyzed separately or if the results were combined. For smoking beliefs, effects were again small and only statistically significant for social norms regarding smoking.
CONCLUSIONS: Short-term exposure to smoking in cartoon and family-oriented movies had little immediate impact on beliefs about smoking in preadolescent children, but a significant cumulative impact on norms cannot be ruled out.