I just finished an interview on NPR's Talk of the Nation about smoking in films. The anti-smoking activist Stanton Glantz was on immediately before me, and he stuck by his claim that most teenagers who smoke do so because they saw it in the movies. He said the best estimate (based on a 2003 Lancet study) is that cinematic smoking accounts for 52 percent of smoking initiation. The host, Neal Conan, seemed taken aback at this assertion. Undeterred, Glantz said that number may understate the true influence of movies because it excludes the impact of peer pressure, which is itself shaped by movies.
Does Glantz really believe that eliminating smoking from movies would cut the number of new smokers in half? That if tobacco advertising, which he says accounts for 34 percent of smoking, also were eliminated, the smoking rate among teenagers would plunge by (at least) 86 percent? Or does he just think the public is stupid enough to accept these pseudoscientific claims at face value?