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Alcohol film images link to teen binge drinking

Film-makers are being urged to restrict images of alcohol in the same vein as tobacco products to stop young teens from binge drinking.

A study published in BMJ Open found young teens who watch movies featuring alcohol on a regular basis are twice as likely to start drinking.

Furthermore, such teens are also “significantly” (63%) more likely to progress to binge drinking.

Researchers quizzed more than 6500 US teens aged between 10 and 14 on their consumption of alcohol and potentially influential factors - including film images - over two years.

They found those adolescents studied had viewed an average of 4.5 hours of on-screen alcohol use and many had seen in excess of eight hours.

Over the course of the study period, the proportion of teens who started drinking alcohol more than doubled from 11% to 25%, while the proportion who began binge drinking - defined as five or more drinks in a row - tripled from 4% to 13%.

Alcohol in movies accounted for 28% of the proportion of teens who started drinking between surveys and for 20% of those who moved on to binge drinking.

The association was seen not only with movie characters who drink, but also with alcohol product placement, researchers claim.

As such, researchers said the monitoring of alcohol in movies “may deserve similar emphasis” as that of smoking.

“Product placement in movies is forbidden for cigarettes in the USA, but is legal and commonplace for the alcohol industry, with half of Hollywood films containing at least one alcohol brand appearance, regardless of film rating,” said the authors of the study.

“Like influenza, images in Hollywood movies begin in one region of the world then spread globally, where they may affect drinking behaviours of adolescents everywhere they are distributed.”

Question: Do you think film-makers should restrict images of alcohol in movies?