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NCI Study Examines Impact of Cigarettes on TV

The National Cancer Institute concluded that there is a causal relationship between depictions of smoking in the mass media and youth smoking, and that there is a causal relationship between cigarette advertising and increased tobacco use.

"The total weight of evidence from cross-sectional, longitudinal and experimental studies indicates a causal relationship between exposure to depictions of smoking in movies and youth smoking initiation," the NCI said in a just-released review of the current evidence on the affects of media on smoking.

The NCI pointed primarily to movies, but also said smoking depictions can be found in 20% of TV shows and 25% of music videos.

It added that an anti-smoking media campaign, particularly on TV, can be effective in discouraging smoking, saying, "Evidence from controlled field experiments and population studies shows that mass-media campaigns designed to discourage tobacco use can change youth attitudes about tobacco use, curb smoking initiation and encourage adult cessation."

The report put in several plugs for the Fairness Doctrine, pointing out that it was the "successful application" of that doctrine to cigarette advertising in the late 1960s that launched TV anti-smoking efforts.

But TV's power is also used to help thwart tobacco controls, with the report talking of the use of TV, radio and print campaigns by the tobacco industry to thwart ballot initiatives for tobacco-control legislation.