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Music videos expose teens to alcohol and tobacco

Friday January 15th, 2016

Music videos that depict smokers and alcohol drinkers should be subjected to the same classification used to regulate film and TV, according to a public health expert today.

The call for “overly positive portrayals of both alcohol and tobacco in music videos” to be included in the drug misuse and dangerous behaviour categories comes as a report reveals that UK teenagers are heavily exposed to alcohol and tobacco images and lyrics in YouTube music videos.

Dr Jo Cranwell, Division of Epidemiology & Public Health UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, University of Nottingham, said 13-15 year olds were most exposed to the images, and girls.

Writing in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, Dr Cranwell and team suggest that music videos pose a “significant health hazard that requires appropriate regulatory control”.

They used the results of two nationally representative online surveys of British adults and teens to calculate viewing figures for the 32 most popular music videos of top 40 chart songs in the UK between 3 November, 2013, and 19 January, 2014.

They analysed the number of 10-second intervals in each of the videos to estimate the total number of images, depictions and lyrics of alcohol and tobacco content.

A total of 2,068 teenagers aged between 11 and 18, and 2,232 adults aged 19 plus completed the surveys, which showed that the average percentage of viewing across the music videos was 22% for the teens and 6% for the adults.

Basing their calculations on population census data, the researchers said the videos delivered 1006 million impressions of alcohol and 203 million of tobacco to the British population during the period between release of the video and the point of the survey.

Teens aged 13 to 15 received an average of 11.48 tobacco impressions, while those aged 16 to 18 received an average of 10.5. This compares with 2.85 for adults. Exposure was about 65% higher among girls, with the highest numbers of tobacco impressions delivered to 13-15 year olds.

When it came to alcohol, approximately 52.11 impressions were delivered to each teenager compared with 14.13 to each adult. However, this rose dramatically to 70.68 among 13-15 year old girls.

Dr Cranwell said the music videos for “Trumpets” by Jason Derulo and “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke delivered some of the highest number of tobacco impressions, while ”Timber” by Pitbull, and “Drunk in Love” by Beyoncé, delivered the most alcohol content.

“If these levels of exposure were typical, then in one year, music videos would be expected to deliver over four billion impressions of alcohol, and nearly one billion of tobacco, in Britain alone,” the researchers say.

“Further, the number of impressions has been calculated on the basis of one viewing only; however, many of the videos had been watched multiple times, so this number is likely to be much bigger.”

There has been a ban on paid-for placement of branded tobacco products since 2002 in the UK, while alcohol promotion is regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority, the Portman Group, and industry voluntary codes of practice.

Films are classified and TV content is subject to controls during periods when children are likely to be watching, but there are no regulations for digital music videos.

While the British Board of Film Classification has consulted on an age rating system for music videos made in the UK, it includes drug misuse, dangerous behaviour presented as safe, bad language, sex and nudity, threatening behaviour and violence. It does not cover tobacco and alcohol content.

The researchers go on to say that evidence suggests that teenagers who are exposed to alcohol and tobacco content in films are more likely to start smoking or drinking.

Dr Cranwell said last night: “Owing to the obvious health implications for adolescents, we suggest that overly positive portrayals of both alcohol and tobacco in music videos should be included in both the drug misuse and dangerous behaviour presented as safe rating categories.”

Cranwell J, Opazo-Breton M, Britton J. Adult and adolescent exposure to tobacco and alcohol content in contemporary YouTube music videos in Great Britain: a population estimate. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 15 January 2016; doi 10.1136/jech-2015-206402 [abstract]

Tags: Drug & Alcohol Abuse | General Health | Infancy to Adolescence | UK News

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