Background: Exposure to smoking in films is a recognised cause of smoking uptake among children. In India, in an attempt to protect children, films containing smoking are required to include tobacco control messaging including audiovisual disclaimers, on-screen health warnings when tobacco imagery is displayed and antitobacco 'health spots' before and during the film. We report a study of the association between ever smoking and exposure to tobacco imagery in locally popular films among children in Udupi district of Karnataka state in southern India.
Methods: A cross-sectional questionnaire survey of all students in grades 6-8 in schools in the Udupi district ascertained smoking status and potential confounders of smoking uptake, and whether children had seen any of 27 locally popular films we had coded and found to contain imagery of actual or implied tobacco use. Ever-smoking status was defined as any reported smoking of cigarettes, beedis or other tobacco products currently or at any time in the past. Independent effects on ever-smoking status were estimated using multiple logistic regression.
Results: Of 46 706 students enrolled in grades 6-8 in 914 participating schools, 39 282 (84.1%) provided questionnaire responses sufficiently complete for analysis. Ever smoking was reported by 914 (2.3%) participants and in a mutually adjusted model was significantly related to age, male sex, living in a home where smoking is allowed, having parents or siblings who smoke, low paternal education, low levels of family wealth, low self-esteem, rebelliousness and poor school performance. After allowing for these effects, the odds of ever smoking were not increased among students who had seen any of the listed films containing tobacco imagery when included in the analysis as a binary exposure (OR 0.9, 95% CI 0.4 to 2.0), and decreased in relation to level of exposure graded into tertiles of tobacco intervals seen.
Conclusions: In this cross-sectional study, children in southern India who had seen films containing tobacco imagery are no more likely to smoke than those who had not, indicating that the tobacco control messaging mandated by Indian law may be attenuating the effect of tobacco imagery in films on smoking uptake.
Keywords: advertising and promotion; low/middle income country; media; prevention; public policy.
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