New research published in JAMA Pediatrics and featured in a recent Education Week Blog, shows that the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), enacted 15 years ago in which the motion picture industry agreed not to pay for product placement in various forms of media, including movies, TV, theater, and video games, did indeed significantly diminish the role of tobacco use in movies.
Researchers from the Norris Cotton Cancer Center and Dartmouth College combed through the top 100 highest-grossing films from each year between 1996-2009, timing the duration of depictions of alcohol and tobacco, and noting any brand identification. They found a steep drop-off in tobacco use beginning two years after the MSA; films already in production during the settlement account for the delay.
Unlike tobacco, however, no master agreement for alcohol regulations exists. As tobacco depiction fell, alcohol representation surged in youth-rated movies. On average, the representation of alcohol brands rose steadily: 1999 had just over 60 brand representations, 2000 had about 110, and 2002 was back to about 60, although 2007, 2008, and 2009 all had over 120 depictions.
The study’s authors suggest that the most forceful solution asks the Motion Picture Association of America to automatically give an R rating to any movies “that depict drinking in contexts that could increase curiosity or acceptability of unsafe drinking” or which depict underage or excessive drinking.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that junior and senior high school girls are among the likeliest age group to start binge drinking.
Knowing the power of parenting, Connect with Kids suggests that parents use summer movie watching as an opportunity to talk with kids about what they are seeing on the screen when it comes to drugs, alcohol and tobacco, and to talk about expectations and encourage healthy decision-making.