Years ago television and cigarette advertisements went practically hand-in-hand, but as the times have changed, so have marketing practices. This change is due to the negative effects smoking can have on children viewers. Various organizations and committees, including the Parents Television Council, had organized petitions and protests to minimize the influence of smoking on children by removing on-air smoking advertisements. Although smoking is not off-air entirely, there has definitely been a change to how this habit is portrayed on-screen.
Children networks, such as Disney and Nickelodeon, do not permit smoking advertisements, or televise characters smoking cigarettes of any type. These networks understand the influence smoking can have on its viewers, who are mainly children. Other networks, including family programs and specials, do have characters that smoke while on-screen; however, networks have evolved by showing the negative consequences smoking can have, such as cancer and other illnesses brought on by smoking. Children viewers can see the negative effects of smoking through these storylines, and learn more about dealing with these illnesses in the process. One can only hope these storylines will influence children in a positive way.
The way smoking is depicted on television has changed a great deal. Some characters are written as smokers, such as those in animated adult series and prime-time television programs; but those characters that smoke are typically the villains of the television show, or a particular episode. For instance, a criminal on CSI may be shown smoking a cigarette, but most children do not aspire to be a criminal. In these television series, which are seen mainly by adult viewers, smoking is not glamorized, but instead viewed as a joke or satire.
Networks have evolved in their trends to eliminate the propping of smoking with their broadcasts. Some television programs even discuss how a person can stop smoking, with various methods and alternatives. Although children who watch more than five hours of television a day are more likely to smoke, the television programs should not carry all of the blame. People are going to smoke, regardless if a character on television is seen smoking or not.
Few and Far Between
Seeing a character smoke on-screen is extremely rare on today’s televisions shows. Networks are aware that glamorizing a habit, such as smoking, can influence a child to choose those same habits; therefore networks are portraying smoking in a negative light more and more. Stories are being written to help a character stop smoking, or use a less harmful alternative, such as an electronic cigarette. As a parent or viewer, you can only hope your child does not see smoking as a must-participate-in habit.