(HealthDay News) – Short exposure to movie smoking in cartoons or family-oriented movies has a minimal effect on preadolescent children’s beliefs about smoking.

Kirsten Lochbuehler, of Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and colleagues examined the impact of short exposure to movie smoking among children. Participants were randomly allocated to view 20-minute movie segments with or without smoking characters in two experiments. One hundred one children aged 8–10 years were shown a cartoon, and 105 children aged 8–11 years viewed a family-oriented movie. After watching the movie, beliefs about smoking were assessed by questionnaire and implicit associations toward smoking were evaluated.

The researchers found that, in both samples, the majority of children viewed smoking unfavorably. Exposure to smoking in cartoons or family-oriented movies did not have an effect on preadolescents’ implicit associations toward smoking. The only statistically significant association found related to social norms regarding smoking; other effects of smoking beliefs were small.

“As previous studies have revealed that cumulative exposure to movies with smoking cues influences smoking experimentation among adolescents, future research needs to examine whether and how these portrayals affect adolescents’ beliefs about smoking,” the authors write. “The current study suggests that prevention and policy initiatives should rather focus on the effect of smoking in family-oriented movies.”

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