R-rated movies contain adult material including but not limited to nudity, sexual behavior, hard language and intense violence, but should smoking be considered adult behavior and should it be restricted from teen-friendly movies (PG-13)?

Research suggests that teens who see cigarette smoking in movies are more prone to trying the habit. A study conducted by scholars at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College revealed there is adequate evidence to support the idea.

Scholars surveyed about 6,500 teens between the ages of 10 and 14. The teens were asked a series of questions regarding what box office hits they’ve seen and if they’ve tried smoking. Over a two year-period, the teens were asked the same questions three more times.  The answers revealed that teens who watched movies with cigarette smoking scenes were more likely to engage in smoking.

Scholars also observed movie ratings in correlation with smoking scenes and discovered PG-13 movies on average contained 275 smoking scenes, whereas R-rated films displayed only 93 smoking scenes. G and PG-rated films did not show smoking scenes and had no correlation with teens engaging in the habit.

Prior to this study, the Surgeon General also released a report supporting the theory that smoking scenes can negatively influence teens. According to the Surgeon General over 3,800 adolescents will smoke their first cigarette before 18 and by young adulthood they will become daily smokers who are addicted to nicotine. The report examines the effects of social, environmental, advertising and marketing influences that promote tobacco use. Environmental effects include, old and new media propaganda, including films. The most prevalent environmental messages the media exhibit to teens regarding smoking is that smoking is a part of the “social norm.”

According to Dr. James Sargent, a professor of pediatrics at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, if PG-13 films remove smoking scenes, the number of adolescents who pick up smoking will decrease by 18 percent.

Though media may influence teen to engage in negative behavior that they suggest is the “social norm,” Dr. Sargent advises parents to monitor what their youth watch and ensure they are not subjected to R-rated films until late teenage years. 

The study was published in Pediatrics.