The evidence is pretty clear that smoking in movies influences lighting up in real life, with studies suggesting that kids in particular can be more likely to take up the habit after seeing stars who smoke.
But even though smoking is probably less socially acceptable in the U.S. than ever before, we still see gorgeous men and women make the habit look glamorous by lighting up on the big screen. (Hello, have you seen the trailer for Gangster Squad? Emma Stone exhales a plume of smoke just as Ryan Gosling tries to seduce her, probably launching more than a few new teen smokers.)
But it’s not just in movies that portray smokers in a historically accurate setting. In fact, the worst movie for smoking in 2012 was the latest James Bond installment, Skyfall, according to Smoke Free Movies, an initiative at the University of California San Francisco.
While the actors didn’t puff away throughout the entire film, we did see yet another glamorous actress–this time, Berenice Marlohe–clad in an evening gown with a drop-dead accessory, a smoldering cigarette.
Skyfall delivered more tobacco impressions (smoking incidence per film times the number of admission tickets) than any other movie in 2012, the groups says.
“The movie Skyfall had over 20 smoking incidences, delivering over 840 million impressions in the U.S. alone,” says Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, director of Smoke Free Movies.
Given the fact that it was PG-13, and thus viewed by lots of children and teens, that’s particularly bad news. (According to the group, Titanic in 3D was the runner up, followed by Men in Black 3).
Can a few moments of smoking on the big screen truly influence smoking rates? Well, yes.
For every 500 smoking scenes a child sees in PG-13 movies, the likelihood of that child trying cigarettes increases by 49%. The comparable figure for R-rated movies is 33%, according to a 2012 study of over 6,000 children ages 10 to 14 that was published in the journal Pediatrics.
Cigarettes don’t have to be front and center either: The study found that smoking shown in the background or in passing is also linked with real-world experimentation. “About 44% of all adolescents smoking in the U.S. today are estimated to have been recruited by smoking in movies,” says Glantz.
Blowing smoke on the big screen is almost always unnecessary, he says.
“Movies made to be sold to kids shouldn’t be promoting cigarettes and condemning them to a life of nicotine addiction,” he says. “Lung cancer kills more U.S. women than breast cancer. One in three kids recruited to try smoking by a movie will die from it.”
Note to Hollywood: Please spare us any more images of drop-dead gorgeous men and women blowing smoke on-screen, essentially promoting a habit that will make regular people just plain drop dead.