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On-screen smoking causes more teens to light up

A new study suggests that teens who watch a lot of movies with cigarette-smoking characters are more likely to start smoking themselves.

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An Indonesia teenager smokes on February 6, 2009 in Jakarta, Indonesia. A new study suggests that any film containing smoking should be rated R to help curb teen smoking. (Dimas Ardian/AFP/Getty Images)

A new study published in the August issue of Pediatrics suggests that teens who watch a lot of R and PG-13 movies with cigarette-smoking characters are more likely to start smoking themselves, Reuters health reported. 

James D. Sargent, MD, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH, and colleagues found that every 500 cigarettes kids ages 10 to 14 years old saw on TV increased their likelihood to try a cigarette by 49 percent, MedPageToday.com reported.

The researchers also found about 60 percent of teens' exposure to smoking in movies comes from watching youth-rated PG-13 movies.

Sargent and his colleagues believe that any film involving smoking should be given an R rating to help curb teen smoking.

"An R rating for smoking could reduce smoking onset in the United States by 18 percent, an effect similar to making all parents maximally authoritative in their parenting," Sargent told WebMD.

Sargent and the group of researchers counted how many times a character was seen smoking in over 500 box-office hits from recent years. The group then asked 6,500 kids ages 10 to 14 in the US which of a random selection of 50 of those movies they'd watched, Reuters reported.

The group found that kids are seeing more smoking in PG-13 rated films than their R-rated counterparts. The average "dose" of movie smoking was 275 scenes from films rated PG-13 and 93 scenes from R movies, WebMD reported. 

For Sargent, it comes down to the movie industry taking responsibility for its actions. He told Health.com, “The movie industry [should] treat smoking like it treats profanity and sex and violence. If saying the ‘F’ word twice gets you an R rating, certainly something as important as smoking should get you an R rating.”

More from GlobalPost: Vaccine may block effects of nicotine

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/health/120709/screen-smoking-causes-more-teens-light