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Smoking restrictions on YouTube videos could help curb poor health choices

It was 1976 when Australia first jumped on board the health bandwagon and made tobacco advertising illegal.

Thirty years later, images of cigarettes and alcohol are still making their way onto our television and computer screens and it’s having a damaging effect on teenagers, research has found.

A recent study published by the British Medical Journal found that a variety of popular video clips, including Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love”, featured images that glorify the use of tobacco, alcohol and e-cigarettes.

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The same researchers said that young people who are exposed to alcohol and tobacco are much more likely to consume them themselves.

There are strict laws about cigarette and alcohol advertising on television and in film in Australia, but it is easy for images of people smoking and drinking to slip through the cracks through online video clips because they aren’t subject to age restrictions and regulations.

According to research, nearly half of all the popular movies released in 2009 contained some sort of image of smoking including 54 percent of the films that were rated PG-13.

Subsequently, much research went into the relationship between young adults seeing smoking depicted in film and then taking up smoking themselves.

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According to a 2012 report, “The evidence is sufficient to conclude that there is a causal relationship between depictions of smoking in the movies and the initiation of smoking among young people.”

Smoking claims the lives of 15,500 Australians each year and the most recent data from 2014 says that approximately 5 per cent of 12 to 17-year-olds are smokers.

The research published by the British Medical Journal claims that because of the restrictions placed on tobacco and alcohol companies to advertise, they are using music videos and YouTube clips as a way of being seen by a young and impressionable market.

No doubt watching videos of their idols smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol is going to normalise the act and encourage kids that smoking and drinking is cool again.

For concerned parents and adults, though, there are YouTube filters that can be enabled to make sure kids cannot access certain content. You must be logged into a YouTube account to activate the restricted mode, which means inappropriate content will be filtered out. YouTube warns that these block-out methods aren’t completely accurate, though, so other filter systems and programs can be bought or downloaded as a substitute.

This is particularly good for the younger kids, but no doubt the teenagers will be able to navigate their way around these types of restrictions easier than we can set them up.

What do you think? Should there be tighter YouTube restrictions when it comes to advertising? Let us know.

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