Youth and On-screen Tobacco Use – Value of Media Rating System

This was a research study that aimed to assess the exposure of youth to the portrayal of tobacco use in Indian cinema and the enforcement of media rating system – its value in reducing such exposure. The study objectives were to assess (1) exposure of school-going adolescents to ‘A’ and ‘U/A’ certified films; (2) knowledge of adolescents regarding film rating system and television broadcasting schedule; (3) perceived influence of exposure to portrayals of tobacco use in films (on-screen tobacco use) on uptake of tobacco use by adolescents; (4) exposure to ‘A’ and ‘U/A’ certified films by adolescents vis-à-vis parental knowledge and consent; (5) enforcement of film rating system at cinema-hall level that restricts adolescents’ exposure to ‘A’ certified films.

The study used a stratified random sampling covering 4808 students from high schools and pre-university colleges from ‘metropolitan’, ‘town’ and ‘rural’ areas of the state including a subsample of working students. Methods included a survey and a dummy client exercise using a mix of quantitative and qualitative techniques. A total of 40 films (Kannada, Hindi) were sampled based on their popularity among youth. The study found that 76.7% of students had seen at least one or more ‘A’ rated film in the year preceding the survey. Even more students (94.8%) watched ‘U/A’ films. Only 9.7% of students were aware regarding the existence of film certification system. Of students who watched ‘A’ and ‘U/A’ films, 40.3% and 46.9% of students did so with knowledge of their parents respectively. At three out of five cinema halls in Bangalore city and two out of two cinema halls in Hubli town, dummy adolescent clients were issued a ticket for ‘A’ film and were allowed entry into screening hall with staff at cinema hall paying no attention to the age of the clients.

This study was primarily supported by the World Health Organization (India) office.

– Bhojani U. Devadasan N. Youth and on-screen tobacco use: value of media rating system. Institute of Public Health; 2010 – A report submitted to the World Health Organization (India) office. 

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