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November 17, 2005

Free Will and the Movies

A study just released in the journal Pediatrics concludes that smoking in movies is a major "cause" of youth smoking, responsible for 38% of all youth smoking initiation in the United States. The conclusion is based on the results of a cross-sectional telephone survey of 6,522 adolescents ages 10-14 years old. Exposure to smoking in movies was assessed by ascertaining whether youth respondents had seen 50 random movies chosen from a list of 532 first-run movies. The association between smoking in movies and youth smoking status was then examined, controlling for a number of potential confounding variables (including parental and peer smoking). There was a clear dose-response relationship between the estimated exposure to smoking in movies and the odds of a respondent being a smoker. Based on this relationship, the paper concludes that seeing smoking in movies is responsible for 38% of smoking initiation in the United States.

Now, should this study be admitted in "evidence" in a tort suit against, say, MGM (assume away the huge question of MGM wrongdoing here, just to humor me...), that 38% of plaintiffs (say, a class of youth smokers) had their addiction to nicotine "proximately caused" by watching movies? Only if children and their parents are analogous to, say, puppies and their sires/dams, sez me. But, and you heard it here first, I here predict lawsuits aplenty based on the aforementioned article.

Posted by Michael Krauss at 10:30 AM | TrackBack (0)




Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.