Teens are smoking less

December 18,2008
Lindsay Hutton( )

There's good news for a change – teen smoking rates dropped this year and are now lower than they have been since the early 1990s.

In their annual survey of adolescent behavior, researchers at the University of Michigan found that only 12.6 percent of high-school students smoked cigarettes this year, down from 13.6 percent in 2007. Among seventh graders, the rate was only 7 percent (down from 21 percent in 1996). Over 70 percent of teens surveyed said they consider smoking a "dirty habit," and would not date someone who smoked. Very few believe that the harmful effects of smoking have been exaggerated.

Quoted in the New York Times, principal investigator and UM research professor Lloyd Johnson observed that the industry pitch for years was that "smoking makes you sexy and attractive to the opposite sex." It appears that the opposite is now true. Johnson says it projects "a negative image, for both girls and boys."

Nevertheless, there seems to be a certain nostalgia for smoking and smoke-filled rooms, as seen in TV shows such as Mad Men and many Hollywood movies. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pointed to tobacco in the movies as a major factor in teen smoking. Concern that smoking on the silver screen may lead teen viewers to smoke has led to websites such as Smoke-Free Movies. The site, a project of UCSF, tracks movies as they're released and rates them in one of three categories: Promotes Smoking, Smoking with Negative Consequences, or Smokefree.

How do you feel about smoking in the movies? Do you agree with Smoke-Free Movies that any film that shows tobacco in anything but a negative light should be rated "R"?