Bollywood, like Hollywood, raises risk of teen smoking

September / October 2012 | Volume 11, Issue 5

Young Indian woman receives face painting from may, half of face covered with white makeup, fake cigarette, reads no smoking
Photo courtesy of Photoshare/Saurabh Mittal

By showing tobacco use on-screen, India's movie industry, or Bollywood, is igniting an interest in smoking among adolescents, according to a recent study funded by Fogarty's International Tobacco and Health Research and Capacity Building program.

Nearly 4,000 students in New Delhi, ranging from ages 12 to 16 years, participated in the study, answering questions about smoking experience and identifying which popular Bollywood movies they had watched during the preceding two years. 

In the 59 popular movies they named, the researchers identified 412 instances of tobacco use. Children who had seen more smoking portrayals were more likely to have tried smoking themselves than those who had seen fewer. Overall, 5.3 percent of children surveyed said they had used tobacco products at least once. Other factors also influenced whether children had tried tobacco, such as gender, age, academic performance, exposure to tobacco promotions, socioeconomic background, strictness of parents and whether family members or peers smoked.

Past studies have linked portrayals of smoking in Hollywood and European movies to a higher risk of smoking among adolescent viewers.

The Indian study was co-led by Dr. Monika Arora, of both Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth and the Public Health Foundation of India.

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