Straight-to-Streaming Movies Require New Ways to Monitor Tobacco Imagery
COVID-19’s 2020 debut shuttered theaters and pushed film producers to release movies straight to streaming services, forcing investigators to reconsider how they study on-screen tobacco imagery and its effects, according to a pivotal NORC report. The shift to small-screen viewing via multiple platforms made prior data collection and analysis methods insufficient, creating an urgent need for new ways to study scenes that feature tobacco and their impact on impressionable young viewers. Because movies sell cigarettes, leaving on-screen smoking on the cutting-room floor can potentially reduce underage smoking, the use of other tobacco products by youth, and the risk of potentially deadly diseases linked to tobacco use.
“To reduce youth exposure and use of tobacco products—thereby increasing their chances of living healthier lives—we need an entirely new process for capturing the reach and impact of tobacco imagery and the resulting behavioral health outcomes. That new process could include redefined audience viewership metrics, layering of existing tobacco-use data, and youth panels.”
A recent study NORC conducted for Truth Initiative found that more than one-third of the top movies released in 2020 included tobacco depictions, including several rated by the Motion Picture Association (MPA) as suitable for young audiences. And, while top youth-oriented films produced by MPA members showed a notable drop in tobacco images from 2019 to 2020, films released by non-MPA members and independent studios showed an increase in tobacco images.
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