The media may be guilty of promoting smoking among young people, with many cartoons ranking among the top television programs that show characters smoking, a recent study found.
The study on cigarettes and smoking conducted by the Bureau of Health Promotion monitored various types of television programs, television news, movies, magazines, marketing events and electronic games between July and September. The results showed that cigarette smoking scenes showed up an average of 12.55 times in movies this year. This is 20 to 26 times as much media exposure as in television shows, National Communications Commission commissioner Chung Chi-hui (鍾起惠) said.
Several movies that have topped box office sales contain scenes with characters smoking, including Cape No. 7 (海角七號), Lust, Caution (色戒), Kung Fu Hustle (? and Shaolin Soccer (少林足球), she said.
From 1999 to last year, 171, or 73 percent, of movies and television programming produced by the Walt Disney Company or one of its divisions contained smoking scenes, the study showed.
“Although cigarette smoking scenes are more prevalent in movies than on television, television shows are available 24 hours a day and are able to reach a wide range of audiences,” Chung said.
Among the top television shows that contained smoking scenes, four of them were cartoons for children.
“Children may be exposed to [scenes of cigarette smoking] between 3.35 to five times a week, or about 260 times each year. The exposure is long-term and occurs every day,” she said.
Over-exposure to smoking scenes in the media may result in a desire to smoke, said Lyu Shu-yu (呂淑妤), associate professor of public health at Taipei Medical University.
“Young people who do not smoke may be tempted to start if they watch too many movies or television programs that depict people smoking,” she said.
While television commercials or advertisements are prohibited from promoting cigarettes without warning audiences of the associated health hazards, the law does not stipulate any punishment if television programs or movies show cigarette smoking.
“In a free and democratic society, we should not use legal forces to censor scenes featuring cigarettes, but independent groups and organizations can encourage film and television producers to cut down [on such scenes],” she said.