Two questions: Do you know why young people start smoking? Have you any idea how much medical research projects cost? The answer to the first is ‘peer pressure’ and the desire to be accepted by others. The answer to the second is: a lot.
Despite knowing the answer to these questions, researchers decided to test the theory about adolescent smoking in nearly 5000 schoolchildren in New Hampshire, USA. The conclusion? Young people are influenced by seeing their favourite film stars smoking on screen, either on TV or at the cinema, and this may even have a role in their starting the habit in the first place.
The only interesting stuff to come out of the project was the type of smoking typified by certain stars – for example, Sharon Stone was sexuality, John Travolta was toughness, Charlie Sheen was romance and Leonardo DiCaprio was rebellion (BMJ, 2001; 323: 1994-7).