New research suggests that media representation of smoking does influence teenagers to take up the habit. Dr Andrea Waylen and her team at Bristol University examined 360 of the top US box office films released between 2001 and 2005, including those (such as Bridget Jones Diary) that depicted smoking. They found that teenagers who watched films showing actors smoking were more likely to start smoking themselves. Even after controlling for social factors such as whether their parents or peers smoked, the researchers found a significant relationship between adolescent smoking and the number of films they had seen depicting smoking. This has led to the suggestion that in order to cut the numbers of young smokers, films containing scenes of people smoking should be given an 18 certificate.
Watch a discussion of the implications of this research on breakfast television here.