If you've noticed that prime-time TV is missing something that used to be commonplace, you're not alone. A new study reveals that prime-time television is becoming a smoke-free zone.
Citing a study published in Tobacco Control, the Los Angeles Times reports that the visibility of tobacco products in prime-time dramas on the broadcast networks has drastically declined in the past 50-plus years.
"Researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania determined this drop in portrayals of smoking and tobacco use in prime-time dramas mirrored the national decline in consumption," the story reports. "The study examined 1,838 hours of popular U.S. prime-time dramas — everything from “Gunsmoke” (in the 1950s) to “House M.D.” (in the 2000s) — shown on television over 56 years."
The study, said to be the largest ever examining televised tobacco use, focused exclusively on broadcast TV. "Cable programs, such as AMC’s 'Mad Men' — where characters frequently smoke cigarettes on screen — were not part of the study," the report notes.
The article reports: "Research suggested that from 1955 to 2010, tobacco use on television declined from a high of 4.96 instances per hour of programming in 1961 to 0.29 instances per hour in 2010."
The study suggests that the reduced presence of tobacco on television may be a factor in the overall decline in tobacco use.
In a press release, Patrick E. Jamieson, the study’s lead author, said: “TV characters who smoke are likely to trigger the urge to smoke in cigarette users, making it harder for them to quit."
Jamieson added: “Despite the decline since 1961, tobacco use on TV remains a cause for concern. The decline in prime-time TV tobacco use is welcome news, but we need to learn more about tobacco portrayal on cable TV, YouTube, and other popular Internet-based sources.”