Prospective study of exposure to smoking imagery in films and changes in susceptibility to smoking in a cohort of school students in Southern India

Veena G Kamath, Muralidhar M Kulkarni, Asha Kamath, Sarah Lewis, Ilze Bogdanovica, Manpreet Bains, Jo Cranwell, Andrew Fogarty, Monika Arora, Deepika Bahl, Gaurang P Nazar, Ashwath K Naik, Kirtinath Ballal, Rohith Bhagawath, John Britton

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INTRODUCTION India has unique tobacco-free film and TV rules designed to prevent tobacco uptake. In this study, we examined the potential influence of exposure to smoking imagery in regionally famous films, on susceptibility to smoke in teenagers enrolled in schools in a district in Southern India. METHODS A longitudinal survey of students, in grades 6 to 8 at baseline in 2017 and grades 7 to 9 one year later in 2018, ascertained prospective incident susceptibility to smoking during the study period in relation to baseline exposure to 27 locally popular films with actual or implied smoking imagery. RESULTS We analyzed linked data from 33676 participants, and 3973 (11.8%) of the adolescents reported incident susceptibility. There was a significant increase in susceptibility to smoking with increasing exposure at baseline to smoking imagery in films on univariable analysis, highest tertile of exposure relative to no exposure (OR=1.4; 95% CI: 1.0 –2.1, p trend<0.001), and this trend remained significant (p=0.022) after mutual adjustment for recognized confounders, highest vs no exposure (AOR=1.3; 95% CI: 0.9–1.8). We found no statistically significant association between exposure to tobacco-free film rules and change in susceptibility. CONCLUSIONS Prospectively, watching films featuring smoking imagery increases adolescents' vulnerability to smoking. Further research revealed no difference in susceptibility change between youth who saw partially compliant films and those who watched non-compliant films. Our findings, thus, underscore the need to incorporate comprehensive approaches to prevent the inclusion of smoking imagery in films.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTobacco Induced Diseases
Issue numberMay
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2024

Data Availability Statement

The data supporting this research are available from the Principal Investigator on reasonable request.


  • cohort study
  • smoking imagery
  • smoking susceptibility
  • tobacco-free film rules

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

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