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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 August 2005, 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK
Hollywood bad guys 'smoke more'
Sin City
More than one in three "villains" smoked in films, the study found
Hollywood villains and working class characters are more likely to smoke in movies than the rich and heroic, according to a US medical study.

Instead of "glamorous and positive" portrayals of the habit, researchers said the exact opposite was seen.

The study in the journal Chest, which examined almost 450 hit US films made since 1990, found 35% of villains smoked compared with 20% of heroes.

It also said smoking was not much more common on screen than in real life.

The fact that it tends to be the 'bad guys' who smoke in films doesn't make smoking any less appealing
Action on Smoking and Health

And independent film-makers were more likely to show characters lighting up than the big studios, it found.

"Children and adults of all ages can be influenced by what they view in movies," said Paul Kvale, president of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP).

"This study emphasises the need for responsible film-making when it comes to portraying smoking."

'Like real life'

The study looked at the five main characters in every film that has portrayed American life and reached the US box office top 10 since 1990.

Almost half of all characters who smoked were in a lower socioeconomic class, the researchers found, compared with 10% being upper class.

To suggest that films are to blame for teens taking up smoking is daft
Smokers' rights group Forest

Overall, 23.3% of lead characters smoked on screen, it said - compared with 21.8% of people in US society.

Men and white people were more likely to smoke in films than women and ethnic minorities - the same pattern as in real life.

And 46% of independent movies studied featured a lead character who smoked, compared with 18% of films made by the big studios.

Dr Karan Omidvari of St Michael's Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey - the lead researcher on the study - said: "Independent movie-makers, who work outside the Hollywood system, are much more callous and 'guilty' when it comes to portraying smoking indiscriminately."

Blaming films 'daft'

A spokeswoman for UK group Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) said screen villains could make smoking "even more attractive to rebellious youths".

"The fact that it tends to be the 'bad guys' who smoke in films doesn't make smoking any less appealing," she said.

"So I would agree that producers and directors have got a responsibility to think very carefully about whether smoking is even needed at all in a film."

A spokesman for smokers' rights group Forest said cigarettes were bound to feature in movies because some film-makers tried to replicate real life.

"In real life, as much as some people hate it, people smoke and people enjoy smoking," he said.

"As for Hollywood glamorising smoking, I fail to see that. And teens are exposed to many influences at school, at home and from the massive amount of anti-smoking messages they receive.

"To suggest that films are to blame for teens taking up smoking is daft."

Do movies glamorise smoking? Does it make any difference if the cigarette is held by a heroic or villainous character? Should films show smoking at all - even though it is a part of real life?

How ridiculous! Do people seriously think that a child/adult is going to take up smoking because they see a "baddie" or a "goodie" doing it in a film. I should imagine that most of the films which are being discussed have at least a 15 certificate, many youngsters try their first cigarette long before that age. Peer pressure? Has anybody thought about that being the reason for so many younger people smoking?
Lucy Dean, UK

I am not a smoker but I do not understand why smoking in movies gets so much attention, compared to violence for example. Young people are more likely to be impressed by the fake fight scenes in movies. However, people must take responsibility for their own actions and blaming movies for social problems is ridiculous. If one started blaming movies for every social problem, a movie industry wouldn't exist. People need to take responsibility for their own actions and be able to tell the difference between movies and reality and what good and not good for them.
Khurrum, Dubai

The survey misses the point somewhat. It is not a question of good and bad but more "cool" or "uncool". Movies are the last bastion of smoking in the media and the only surviving place in which smoking is ever considered sexy and cool. There is no reason whatsoever that cigarettes could not disappear from movies tomorrow(as they have from TV) and no-one would notice. They don't though, do they? You have to wonder why..........
Peter Cowan, London, UK

There's something about the leading actress smoking on the big screen. Ever since watching Jessica Rabbit light up a cigarette in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?", it always makes go funny inside.
Ned F, Harlow, UK

All broadcasters have a responsibility to show balance in the messages they convey - the fact that the number of smokers in films seems to mirror the overall percentage of smokers (of which I am one) in real-life seems fine. I don't think that smokers in films being "goodies" or "baddies" really has an effect on the equation. Having said that, I've always somehow felt that Dot Cotton was responsible for me taking up the habit.
Matt, Manchester, UK

The very reason the husband smokes is that he still thinks it makes him look 'cool' and edgy just like the bad guys in the movies. Films absolutely glamorises smoking, as do rock stars taking drugs.
Heidi Docherty, Edinburgh

We live in a society where actors and actresses are idolized by millions of young people, so of course when they see their idols smoking then it may make it more attractive to them. Because people have so high opinions of these people, they have a duty to send out the right message to their young fans. Many people fail to distinguish the real life from the movie world, so often people may start smoking because they think that movie person smokes in real life; when in reality it was in a movie. If you see a movie person smoking in a movie it may well glamorise the habit of smoking for there many fans and make them want to take up smoking.
James Lamont, Norwich

What's next - digitally erasing the cigarette from Humphrey Bogart's hand? These pathetic attempts to garner publicity for the anti-smoking lobby, and their attendant overtones of social engineering, need to stop now. And I'm a lifelong non-smoker...
Stephen Graves, London, UK

Art imitates life, not vice versa. People are no more likely to take up smoking because of a movie than they are to take up martial arts because of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! Too much is read into the so-called "effects" movies have on people and the boffins should stop doing these nonsense researches and get a real job!
David Murphy, Walsall, England

What? Films make people smoke? If people are that stupid in the beginning to be influenced by films then they deserve the effects of smoking.
Matt Page, Sheffield, England

I don't really think that behaviour in films necessarily effects people's behaviour, especially when it concerns health issues. I mean, I watched "The Road to Wellville" and didn't feel the irresistible urge to go have colonic irrigation!
Richard, Sheffield, UK

To even ask the question is an affront to art and moviemaking. Art portrays life or fantasy as the writer/ director chooses. The portrayal of smoking is a portrayal of life. That is what moviemaking is all about.
Philip, Brussels

Film-makers who feature smoking in their films may be trying to replicate real life but, unlike real life, one in three of their film characters aren't likely to develop cancer.
Steve Crellin, Salford, LANCS

Smoking in films should be either banned or severely curtailed. My problem with it is that I smoke, and if I have to watch a long film in a cinema where lighting up is frequent then it is a problem for me. I could also see that there would be a similar problem for people who want to give up/have stopped and then have to watch people lighting up in a cinema.
Simon Davis, London, UK

What we watch does have an effect on us, albeit a totally unconscious one. In the movies of the 40s and 50s glamorous beautiful people were seen smoking. Look at the famous photo of James dean with a fag hanging out of his mouth. Today, it is mostly the bad 'uncool' guys who smoke. But we don't suddenly see a bad guy smoking and think hey it's not cool to smoke anymore. It's a slow process. Gradually, over the years what we see in movies and on TV does have an effect. This, coupled with the health campaigns against smoking does mean that it is seen as a less and less glamorous or cool habit.
Anna Ruben, Paris, France

Has anyone seen Constantine. This movie's main character spends the majority of the plot trying to avoid his doom in hell. As a Catholic, and a smoker diagnosed with cancer, he is trying to find a way to escape the churches punishment for suicide! Do movie makers glamorise smoking? - not all of them!
Jamie, Bromley

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12 May 04 |  Entertainment
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27 Aug 03 |  Entertainment
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