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Tob Control. 2017 Jan;26(1):105-108. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2015-052400. Epub 2016 Jan 28.

Did limits on payments for tobacco placements in US movies affect how movies are made?

Author information

Norris Cotton Cancer Center, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Lebanon, New Hampshire, USA.
Institute for Therapy and Health Research, Kiel, Germany.
Department of Pediatrics, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
Department of Pediatrics, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Lebanon, New Hampshire, USA.



To compare how smoking was depicted in Hollywood movies before and after an intervention limiting paid product placement for cigarette brands.


Correlational analysis.


Top box office hits released in the USA primarily between 1988 and 2011 (n=2134).


The Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), implemented in 1998.


This study analyses trends for whether or not movies depicted smoking, and among movies with smoking, counts for character smoking scenes and average smoking scene duration.


There was no detectable trend for any measure prior to the MSA. In 1999, 79% of movies contained smoking, and movies with smoking contained 8 scenes of character smoking, with the average duration of a character smoking scene being 81 s. After the MSA, there were significant negative post-MSA changes (p<0.05) for linear trends in proportion of movies with any smoking (which declined to 41% by 2011) and, in movies with smoking, counts of character smoking scenes (which declined to 4 by 2011). Between 1999 and 2000, there was an immediate and dramatic drop in average length of a character smoking scene, which decreased to 19 s, and remained there for the duration of the study. The probability that the drop of -62.5 (95% CI -55.1 to -70.0) seconds was due to chance was p<10-16.


This study's correlational data suggest that restricting payments for tobacco product placement coincided with profound changes in the duration of smoking depictions in movies.


Media; Public policy; Tobacco industry

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