Context Tobacco and alcohol use among youth are major public
health problems, but the extent to which children are routinely exposed
to tobacco and alcohol products in children's films is unknown.
Objective To identify the prevalence and characteristics
associated with tobacco and alcohol use portrayed in G-rated, animated
Design All G-rated, animated feature films released between 1937
and 1997 by 5 major production companies (Walt Disney Co, MGM/United
Artists, Warner Brothers Studios, Universal Studios, and 20th Century
Fox) that were available on videotape were reviewed for episodes of
tobacco and alcohol use.
Main Outcome Measures Presence of tobacco and alcohol use in each
film, type of tobacco or alcohol used, duration of use, type of
character using substance (bad, neutral, or good), and any associated
Results Of 50 films reviewed, 34 (68%) displayed at least 1
episode of tobacco or alcohol use. Twenty-eight (56%) portrayed 1 or
more incidences of tobacco use, including all 7 films released in 1996
and 1997. Twenty-five films (50%) included alcohol use. Smoking was
portrayed on screen by 76 characters for more than 45 minutes in
duration; alcohol use was portrayed by 63 characters for 27 minutes.
Good characters use tobacco and alcohol as frequently as bad
characters. Cigars and wine are shown in these films more often than
other tobacco or alcohol substances.
Conclusions More than two thirds of animated children's films
feature tobacco or alcohol use in story plots without clear verbal
messages of any negative long-term health effects associated with use
of either substance.