Tobacco and tobacco branding in films most popular in the UK from 2009 to 2017

Alexander Barker, Jo Cranwell , Iona Fitzpatrick, Khaldoon Alfayad, Rachael Murray, Kathy Whittamore, John Britton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (SciVal)


Background Exposure to tobacco content in films is a cause of smoking uptake in young people. In an earlier study, we reported that tobacco content occurred in 70% of UK box office films popular between 1989 and 2008. We now report an analysis of tobacco content in a sample of the top grossing UK box office films between 2009 and 2017, and of population exposure resulting from audience exposure to the 2017 films.

Methods Occurrence of tobacco intervals (actual tobacco use, implied use, appearance of smoking paraphernalia or branding) was measured by 5 min interval coding in the 15 most commercially successful films in the UK in each year from 2009 to 2017. A nationally representative survey was used to estimate population exposure to the top 15 films from 2017.

Results We coded 3248 intervals from the 135 films. Tobacco content appeared in 245 intervals (8%, 95% CI 7% to 9%) across 56 (41%, 95% CI 33% to 49%) films. Tobacco content occurred in films in all BBFC age ratings, and 36 (64%, 95% CI 51% to 77%) of films containing tobacco imagery were classified as suitable for viewing by people aged under 15 years. Although less prevalent than in our earlier study, there was no evidence of a secular decline in tobacco content during this study period. The top 15 films from 2017 delivered approximately 21.6 (95% CI 21.06–22.14) million tobacco impressions to young people aged 10–18 years in the UK.

Conclusions Tobacco content continues to appear in UK Box Office films and is widely seen by young people, representing a major driver of smoking uptake.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1103-1108
Issue number12
Early online date17 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2020


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