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Ontario youth getting Hooked by Hollywood

SIMCOE, SEPTEMBER 1, 2010 – The more youth see smoking in movies, the more likely they are to start smoking. The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is urging young people and their parents to be aware of the impact of smoking in movies with Hooked by Hollywood, an online campaign using popular social networking sites Facebook and Twitter.

“Tobacco use remains the number one cause of preventable disease and death in Ontario,” said Josh Daley, Health Promoter with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit. “If we want to prevent young people from starting to use tobacco products we need to look at the factors that influence that decision, and the prevalence of smoking in movies is a major factor.”

A new report, Tobacco Vector: How American movies, Canadian film subsidies and provincial rating practices will kill 43,000 teens alive today- what Canadian governments can do about it, released August 19 by Physicians for Smoke-Free Canada estimates that about 134,000 Canadian high school aged adolescents were recruited to smoke by exposure to on-screen smoking.

The Hooked by Hollywood campaign provides weekly new release movie updates about presence of tobacco content so that parents, children and youth are aware of the amount of smoking in current youth-rated movies. The campaign hopes to spread the word about the impact of onscreen smoking on ‘real life’ youth smoking.

There has been a substantial decline in Canadian adolescent smoking rates during the past decade due in part to higher tobacco taxes, public health campaigns and legislation at various levels of government. However, youth smoking is still an issue for the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, as 2007 data revealed that 24.7% of youth in Haldimand and Norfolk counties smoke daily or occasionally. Ontario 2009 data shows that the average age youth start smoking is 13 years old.

Today, on-screen smoking plays an even greater role than ever before in recruiting new young smokers, due to strict legislation regarding tobacco advertising in Canada. In 2009, Canadians were exposed to 1.1 billion smoking impressions when watching youth-rated films at the theatre, that is films rated G, PG, or 14A, and this number does not reflect video rentals, televised movies, downloaded movies, etc.

“Teaching young people to be savvy media consumers, aware of product placement and the impact of on-screen smoking, is a key step,” noted Daley. “Hopefully this campaign will allow parents and teens from all over Southern Ontario to have those discussions. Working to reduce or eliminate tobacco use in youth-rated films is the long-term goal.”

Hooked by Hollywood allows Facebook and Twitter users to join in on discussions of tobacco use in newly released movies and actions that can be taken to help protect impressionable youth from on-screen images of tobacco use. Youth and parents can join the conversation, and add their comments and opinions, at www.facebook.com/hookedbyhollywood or www.twitter.com/hookedhollywood.

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Media contact:
Josh Daley
Health Promoter
Healthy Environment Team
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
Ext. 3256 at either 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623
josh.daley@hnhu.org