SEOUL, Nov. 29 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea is one of the countries with the highest percentage of smokers in the world. More than 40 percent of South Korean adults smoke cigarettes.
The South Korean government has come up with various measures, including raising cigarette prices and requiring cigarette packages to feature graphic warning images in a bid to get smokers to quit, but these initiatives have thus far failed to produce significant results.
Experts say that South Korean society, which still accepts the act of smoking, is largely to blame for the high smoking rate.
They point out that there aren’t enough deliberations on how the next generation of South Koreans will accept smoking, particularly when there is still a perception that smoking is cool, which could entice teenagers to try out cigarettes.
Movies contribute to creating such perceptions. While smoking is censored from television shows, there are no regulations governing smoking scenes in movies.
Since 2000, smoking scenes are known to have appeared 37 percent more frequently in South Korean movies than Hollywood films, raising concerns that they may be casting smoking in a positive light to the detriment of impressionable teenagers.
Meanwhile, a study showed that smoking scenes in movies can leave adolescents seven times more likely to be attracted to smoking.
Jung Min-su, a professor of health and management at Dongdeok Women’s University, conducted a study with his team on high school and college students who were shown a series of South Korean movies that included smoking scenes, to see how they influenced their urge to smoke.
The study was published in the November issue of Health and Communication, an international academic journal.
The study showed that high school students with at least one parent who was a smoker were most vulnerable to smoking urges when shown a smoking scene in a movie.
The research team estimated that teenagers without smoking experience were 6.9 times more vulnerable to smoking urges than those who had smoked before when shown movie scenes featuring smoking.
The team also showed that teenagers with parents who smoke were 1.43 times more likely to feel smoking urges than those whose parents did not smoke when shown smoking scenes.
“This could indicate a significant social issue if teenagers learn to smoke from movies,” said Jung.
“Teenagers can feel the urge to smoke in various situations, and we were able to discover a strong causal relationship between the urge and smoking scenes in movies.”
The team suggested the need to consider whether it is appropriate for movies without age restrictions for teenagers to include smoking scenes.
“We have to think about smoking scenes in movies rated suitable for teenagers to prevent them from trying out cigarettes,” said Jung.
“Health authorities should obligate movie theaters to air non-smoking advertisements before the start of the movie to mitigate any smoking urges.”
H. M. Kang (firstname.lastname@example.org)