Entries in Movies (5)


Smoking in Movies, Even PG-13 Films, Ups Teen Smoking Risk

Hemera/Thinkstock(HANOVER, N.H.) -- Teens who watch movies in which smoking is common, regardless of whether the film is rated PG-13 or R, are more likely to pick up the habit, a new study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics finds.

After surveying 6,522 adolescents ages 10 to 14 over a two-year period, researchers found that smoking in movies rated PG-13 had the same impact as those rated R, suggesting that its mainly seeing the habit -- and not other adult behaviors -- that affects whether kids will choose to light up.  Films rated G or PG, in which smoking is uncommon, were not linked to teen smoking.

"Movies affect behavior and the more movies kids watch, the more likely they are to be influenced," Dr. James Sargent, a professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth University and one of the study's authors, told ABC News Radio.  "Seeing lots of smoking in movies shapes how they think about smoking.  It shapes how they think about what smoking might do for them, and it increases the risk that they'll try smoking."

Researchers found that about 60 percent of teenagers' exposure to smoking in movies comes from PG-13 and other youth-rated films.  They suggest changing movie ratings accordingly to lower the rate of teen smoking.

"Movies are currently rated R for things like profanity that have no impact on health and they're really not rated with respect to risk behaviors like smoking and drinking, so what we're trying to get Hollywood to do is to include things that matter in the rating system," Sargent said.

Eliminating smoking from youth-rated films would lower teen smoking by about 18 percent, he pointed out.

It is worth noting that other factors, such as one's environment and family -- which were not examined in this study -- could also influence whether a child chooses to start smoking.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Positive HIV Test Prompts Porn Industry Shutdown

Comstock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- A porn actor's positive HIV test, which prompted a temporary shutdown of Los Angeles' billion-dollar adult film industry Monday night, has reignited the debate over mandatory condom use in X-rated productions.

The HIV scare comes less than one month after the launch of a new online sexual health database aimed at preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among porn actors through mandatory testing. To be listed in the database -- a requisite for getting work -- porn actors must get tested every 30 days and present a clean bill of health. But critics say routine testing does not prevent STDs from creeping in.

"Testing is not a substitute for condom use, and it never will be," said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles. "No test can detect HIV from the moment of infection. There will always be a window period," which might not reflect recent infection.

The Free Speech Coalition, the industry trade group behind the database, announced the positive HIV test and requested the voluntary production moratorium Monday. A spokeswoman did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

The positive test results will be confirmed by more sensitive testing methods, but details of the case, including the performer's name, age and sex, will not be released. It is also unclear how many sexual partners might be at risk.

"The average American male has seven female sexual partners in a lifetime. But it's possible for a male to have seven sexual partners in a single day on porn movie set," said Weinstein. "Because this is a network that's kind of inbred, the spread of disease could be exponential."

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is pushing for mandatory condom use in the making of adult films -- a move that's met with strong resistance from the industry itself.

The online database, launched Aug. 2, lists pornography performers who are free of sexually transmitted diseases and available for work. It replaced an earlier version operated by AIM Medical Associates that was shut down in May after the site was hacked and performers' private medical information was leaked online. It's unclear whether a lapse in STD testing between May and August contributed to the new case.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is lobbying for a measure on L.A.'s June 2012 ballot that would mandate condom use in porn productions that seek city film permits.

"This is a tragedy, and we don't want to see one more person become infected with HIV or any other disease," Weinstein said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Would Stricter Movie Ratings Deter Kids from Smoking?

Doug Menuez/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The World Health Organization recommends slapping adult ratings on movies with scenes that depict smoking, an approach that some anti-tobacco advocates believe could deter kids from lighting up.

Although WHO guidance is largely symbolic, and most nations have ignored it, supporters of controlling kids' access to these images now say restrictive ratings could influence what movie makers are marketing to kids, according to their policy paper in this week's issue of the journal PLoS Medicine.

In it, Christopher Millett, a public health expert at Imperial College London, and his co-authors from the UC San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, director Dr. Stanton Glantz, and consultant Jonathan Polansky, said that some governments provide "generous subsidies to the U.S. film industry" for movies that indirectly promote tobacco use in youngsters.  They would like to turn that around with a policy that relies on economic disincentives, such as making sure that films that include tobacco use are ineligible for public subsidies.

However, others who are just as committed to reducing youngsters' risk of tobacco-associated cancer, heart disease and lung disease, don't think there is enough evidence to demonstrate that controlling who gets into a movie theater can reduce the likelihood kids will become smokers.

Simon Chapman, a public health professor at the University of Sydney in Australia, and Matthew C. Farrelly, a public health policy researcher with RTI International in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, offered a four-part argument against the ratings.

First, they said, no one has definitively demonstrated that watching others smoke onscreen leads to more smoking among those in the audience.  Furthermore, they said, most of the studies purporting to show that link are muddied by many other factors in kids' lives.

"Movies showing smoking might have a lot more in them that might appeal to youth at risk of smoking than just smoking," they wrote.

As a result, they discounted the strength of published estimates suggesting that 390,000 American youngsters smoke because of what they see onscreen, or that imposing adult ratings on films that include actors smoking would likely prevent 200,000 youngsters from becoming smokers.  The figures fail to take into account that kids are drawn to smoking by far more than just what they see at the movies, they said.

A third element of their opposition to tougher ratings is that singling out the movie industry ignores the many other media that contain images of smoking, including the Internet.

Finally, as a matter of principle, they objected to censorship of movies, books, art or theater as a means of tackling public health issues.  Chapman and Farrelly suggested that censorship might turn off citizens and politicians who would otherwise support stricter tobacco control measures, such as blocking "commercial product placement by the tobacco industry."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Spoiler Alert: People Like Knowing the Ending

Design Pics / SW Productions(SAN DIEGO) -- This story -- spoiler alert! -- has a happy ending. If it were a suspense novel, would knowing that make you enjoy it less? To their surprise, psychology researchers found that people actually rated stories higher if they knew how they came out.

So can ruining the surprise make a story more enjoyable? That's what Nicholas Christenfeld and Jonathan Leavitt found, and Christenfeld says he was at first stumped. Leavitt is getting his doctorate in psychology at the University of California at San Diego, and Christenfeld is a professor there.

"I was surprised by the finding," Christenfeld said. "I've spent my life not looking at the end of a book." He and Leavitt had 300 volunteers read 12 short stories, including mysteries or tales with surprise endings by the likes of Agatha Christie, John Updike and Anton Chekov, and rated them on a scale of 1 to 10. Almost without fail, and by sizeable margins, the readers rated them more highly if the researchers inserted copy near the beginning, giving away how the tales would come out.

"You get this significant reverse-spoiler effect," Christenfeld said in an interview with ABC News. "It's sort of as if knowing things puts you in a position that gives you certain advantages to understand the plot."

The researchers say their study did not give direct evidence to explain why people didn't mind having a surprise spoiled, but Christenfeld said he has some ideas. Perhaps, he said, people enjoy a good story as much as a good twist at the end. Even if they know how it comes out, they'll enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

"Writers use their artistry to make stories interesting, to engage readers, and to surprise them," Leavitt and Christenfeld said in their paper, to be published in the journal Psychological Science. "But giving away these surprises makes readers like stories better. This was true whether the spoiler revealed a twist at the end -- that the condemned man's daring escape was just a fantasy before the rope snapped taut around his neck -- or solved the crime -- that Poirot will discover that the apparent target of attempted murder is in fact the perpetrator."

The researchers say they're thinking about follow-up studies, though a controlled test of responses to films is more difficult than one involving short stories. But they've come away believing that surprise may be overrated.

"Other intuitions about suspense may be similarly wrong," they conclude, "and perhaps birthday presents are better wrapped in transparent cellophane."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Movies Show Less Tobacco Use, CDC Study Finds

Michael Matisse/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Top-grossing, youth-rated films have significantly slowed the frequency of smoking over the past five years, according to a CDC report released Thursday.

The study found that total on-screen tobacco occurrences fell by 72 percent between 2005 and 2010. The average number of smoking incidents per youth-rated movie decreased from 20.1 to 6.8 during the same time period.

Despite the Hollywood's progress, 45 percent of the top-grossing movies still show tobacco use including 31 percent of youth-rated films.

On Thursday, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) called for Hollywood producers to continue to cut down use of tobacco in films even further.  The organization of pediatric medical specialists also wants the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to approve new rating policies that would give an "R" rating to films featuring tobacco use.

Saying that on-screen smoking is the biggest threat to child health, AAP President O. Marion Burton, MD, FAAP, doesn't want to compete with glamorized tobacco imagery.

"As pediatricians and parents, we do our best to help kids understand the dangers of tobacco use.  But if we're competing with movies that glamorize smoking to kids, it's an uphill battle," Burton said.

"It’s possible for media companies to change the way they expose children to these images by embracing responsible policies, such as the R-rating, considered to be effective by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those companies that have done so should be commended, and the others should follow suit."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio