Tobacco and alcohol more prevalent in UK reality shows

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WASHINGTON: The use of tobacco and alcohol is extremely common on British television shows, a recent study has found. The study has been published in the ‘Journal of Public Health.’

The researchers measured depictions of alcohol and tobacco products on several television shows like ‘Celebrity Big Brother’, ‘Made in Chelsea’, ‘The Only Way is Essex’, ‘Geordie Shore’, and ‘Love Island,’ all airing on UK channels.

The researchers analysed the number of the one-minute intervals containing tobacco and/or alcohol imagery including actual use, implied use, tobacco or alcohol-related materials, and product-specific branding, and estimated viewer exposure to the imagery on screen.

Researchers here combined audience viewing figures with the mid-year population estimates for 2017 to assess overall and individual impressions — separate incidents seen — by the age group for each of the coded episodes.

Alcohol content appeared in all 112 episodes and in 2,212 one-minute intervals, or 42 per cent of all intervals, which were studied. As much as 18 per cent of intervals included actual alcohol consumption, while 34 per cent featured inferred consumption, predominantly characters holding alcoholic beverages.

The greatest number of intervals including any alcohol content occurred in ‘Love Island.’ Alcohol branding occurred in one per cent of intervals.

Tobacco content appeared in 20 episodes in 110 or 2 per cent of all intervals studied. Almost all (98 per cent) of this content occurred in a single reality TV series ‘Celebrity Big Brother.’

This included actual tobacco use, inferred tobacco use, and tobacco paraphernalia. Tobacco branding was not present. When all the data were combined with the audience viewing figures and population estimates, the researchers estimate that 112 episodes delivered 4.9 billion overall alcohol impressions to the UK population, including 580 million to children under the age of 16, as well as 214 million overall tobacco impressions, including 47 million to children under 16.

Alexander Barker, the lead author of the study, said: “Recent data shows that 44 pc of 11-15 year-olds in England have had an alcoholic drink, and 19 pc have tried smoking. Starting to smoke or drink alcohol at a young age is a strong predictor of dependence and continued use in later life.”

“Given that seeing alcohol or tobacco imagery in the media promotes use among young people, this study, therefore, identifies reality television shows as a major potential driver of alcohol and tobacco consumption in young people in the UK,” he said.

“Tighter scheduling rules, such as restricting the amount of content and branding shown in these programmes, could prevent children and adolescents from being exposed to the tobacco and alcohol content,” concluded Barker. (ANI)