Tobacco and alcohol in films and on television

Lyons, Ailsa (2012) Tobacco and alcohol in films and on television. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Evidence suggests exposure to film smoking increases youth smoking, and this is also likely to be the case for television. Some evidence suggests alcohol in films and television has similar effects on drinking behaviours. It is therefore important to document the extent to which tobacco and alcohol occur in films and television in the UK.


Films (1989-2008) and television broadcasting were content coded for tobacco and alcohol including branding, use, paraphernalia, inferred use, and other reference. These episodes were measured using interval recording whereby intervals of film and television were coded for each coding category listed above if at least one such incident occurred during the interval.


In films, tobacco occurred in 70% of films; 68% of youth rated films. Tobacco fell substantially 1989-2008 for all categories, except branding. Brands were most common in the 15 age category, and 82% were certified as suitable for viewing by those under 18. Brands were most commonly either Marlboro or Silk Cut.

Alcohol appeared in 86% of films, and branding in 35%. Alcohol use and branded appearances were higher in 1989, but the frequency of these and other categories changed little in subsequent years. Most films containing alcohol were classified as suitable for youth viewing. The most frequently shown brands were Budweiser, Miller and Coors.

On television tobacco occurred in 34% broadcast programmes, and in more than half of all films, reality TV, and comedy programmes. Use occurred in 12% of programmes, particularly films and reality TV. Brands were rare, but several appeared in Coronation Street.

Alcohol was commonly portrayed, appearing in 52% of programmes and 37% of advertisements/trailers, and most commonly in soap operas, films, sport, and comedy genres, while use was common in both soap operas and films. Brands were most common in sports programmes, news, and soap operas, with those most frequently being Heineken, Budweiser and Carlsberg.


These substances are common in films and television in the UK, and are more common in films than on television. Alcohol is more pervasive in films and television than tobacco. Given the evidence on the effects of on-screen smoking and drinking on youth behaviours, measures need to be implemented to restrict these substances in media frequently accessed by young people.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Britton, J.R.
McNeill, A.
Subjects: W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WM Psychiatry
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Community Health Sciences
Item ID: 12482
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 12 Sep 2012 10:19
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2017 11:54

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