Putting Tobacco in Movies and TV shows has long been politically unacceptable, except for certain period pieces. Now it's booze under the spotlight with a report in April 2012 Pediatrics (published online March 5), showing that the more teenagers watched movies that featured consumption of alcohol, the more they were likely to drink themselves. The news is hardly surprising, considering how past generations were fed the cool of the cigarette or cigar in previous productions.

The data was collected in Europe and gathered from more than 16,500 youngsters aged 10 to 19. The students from Germany, Iceland, Italy,The Netherlands, Poland and Scotland were asked how often they had had 5 or more drinks on one occasion, and what popular movies they watched (in each country, the majority were Hollywood blockbusters). Movies were content coded for screen depictions of alcohol use.

In total, the researchers ,Hanewinkel and colleagues, found that 27 percent of adolescents had drunk five or more drinks at least once, although it varied from country to country, with Iceland coming in the lowest at only 6 percent and The Netherlands coming in highest at 38 percent. Teens who had seen more alcohol use in moves showed marked tendenncy to be engaging in binge drinking. Other factors, such as age, affluence and rebelliousness were factored in, but the trend was still apparent, with the pattern remaining prevalent across all countries, some of which have very different cultures with regards to drinking. In Italy, for example, it's quite common for those of school age to have the odd glass of wine with a meal, so alcohol is more socially accepted and thus has less of an excitement or glamour to it.

The authors use their findings to raise concern as to the use of alcohol in movies and perhaps consider the ratings agencies, producers and movie studios work together to protect the younger members of society from glamorization of drink, much as is done with sex, violence and tobacco in many regards.

The conclude that :

"Although these cross-sectional findings need to be confirmed through studies with a longitudinal design, our findings raise concern about the role popular movies may play in Europe and beyond in the early experimentation with patterns of alcohol consumption in adolescents ... These patterns have the potential to have a detrimental influence on individual health and future drinking trajectories and to be costly at a societal level."

Written by Rupert Shepherd