According to a recent study published by The Journal of Neuroscience, watching people smoke in movies or television shows activates the part of the brain that drives the body movements a smoker makes hundreds of times throughout the day while actually smoking a cigarette.
Apparently, the movement of reaching for a cigarette only to bring it up to the mouth is learned so strongly by individuals that even watching people smoke on TV activates the portion of the brain responsible for those movements. This, of course, could motivate ex-smokers to relapse into a habit that’s all too painful to break in the first place.
While organizations like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and The American Lung Association have long since advocated the ban of smoking in movies, their reasoning for doing so was that it made the habit look cool. In turn, these associations worried that young, impressionable youths would try to mimic the actions of their heroes on the big screen.
Now, with this new study, it appears as though movies featuring smoking can activate the brain areas that are connected to the physical habits of smoking.
Considering that there are about 443,000 deaths per year as a result of this horrible habit, anything that could be done to prevent ex-smokers from relapsing should be taken into account. Nevermind that tobacco smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in most nations. Just the simple fact that smoking in movies can unknowingly cause former smokers to relapse, should be enough to get it pulled.
Unfortunately, reducing the amount of smokers in the first place doesn’t appear to be a viable option. As it stands, 20 percent of American adults smoke. Of that large group more half try to quit each year but find themselves unsuccessful.
While there is no surefire way to get people to quit smoking or to not start in the first place, at the very least, movie-makers can make an effort to prevent them from relapsing.