Move Over, Smoking -- Make Room for Alcohol, On-Screen

When was the last time you saw someone smoking in a movie?  Used to be that everyone smoked on-screen.  But today it seems only the bad guys are the ones who smoke, almost as if that's another reason we shouldn't like them.

But alcohol, on the other hand, has become much more visible at the movies, according to a story by
Reuters, as reported by Fox News.

Movie characters smoke less since 1998 regulations that stopped tobacco companies from buying on-screen brand placements, according to a new study. But the number of times alcohol brands appear has exploded in movies rated PG-13 and below, while the amount of time characters spend drinking hasn't changed.

I love "Two and a Half Men," at least, when Charlie Sheen was on, and there was never a scene where he didn't have some kind of glass in his hand.

A lot of people see this as a real problem.  "In movie reality, it seems like every occasion is right for a drink," David Jernigan, head of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, told Fox News. Jernigan was not involved in the study. "This whole conversation is about normalization of alcohol use. Young people are particularly vulnerable to the message that drinking is everywhere."

In the study, in the top 100 box office movies between 1996 and 2009, there were 500 tobacco and over 2,000 alcohol placements, Fox News reports. Suits successfully put a stop to allowing tobacco companies to pay for placement in movies, so brand appearances decreased from 54 to over 80 in the years before 2000, then declined to 22 per year after 2006.

But alcohol-brand appearances increased from 80 to 145 in youth-related movies in the same period, the story notes.

"Children who see smoking in the movies are more likely to initiate smoking," Fox Notes quotes Elaina Bergamini from the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, who led the study. ""I think there is some concern that that may hold true for alcohol as well."

Critics feel the appearance of alcohol, and cigarettes, in movies makes children and young adults internalize it as "normal," as an expected way of life.  The worst part?  Drinking is shown as having no consequences.  OK, so Charlie occasionally had a hangover or two.  But even they were glamorous, and often, just made him want to drink more.  

I grew up in a family where alcoholism was a problem, and as a result, I hardly drink at all.  Part of it is not wanting to lose control, but most of it is that drinking was ugly in my family and I did not want to repeat it.  Seeing liquor and brands all the time in movies does legitimize drinking, in a lot of ways.  While I don't believe in over-protecting our society, I do believe that we have to look out for our kids.  Life is hard enough without sowing them that drinking is cool and fun and something that just about everyone does.


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