Tobacco and Alcohol on Television: A Content Analysis of Male Adolescents’ Favorite Shows
Media tobacco and alcohol portrayals encourage adolescent substance use. Preventing adolescent initiation with these substances is critical, as they contribute to leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Television tobacco and alcohol portrayals have not been examined for more than 7 years. This study analyzed tobacco and alcohol portrayals on adolescents’ favorite television shows and evaluated the rate of portrayals by parental rating.
Adolescent males (N = 1,220) from Ohio reported 3 favorite television shows and how frequently they watch them. For each of the 20 most-watched shows in the sample, 9 episodes were randomly selected and coded for visual and verbal tobacco and alcohol incidents. Demographics of characters who used or interacted with the substances were recorded. Negative binomial regression modeled rates of tobacco and alcohol incidents per hour by parental rating.
There were 49 tobacco and 756 alcohol portrayals across 180 episodes. Characters using the products were mostly white, male, and adult. The rate of tobacco incidents per hour was 1.2 for shows rated TV-14 (95% CI, 0.4–3.6) and 1.1 for shows rated TV-MA (95% CI, 0.3–4.5). The estimated rate of alcohol incidents per hour was 20.9 for shows rated TV-14 (95% CI, 6.3–69.2) and 7.2 for shows rated TV-MA (95% CI, 1.5–34.1).
Adolescent males’ favorite television shows rated TV-14 expose them to approximately 1 tobacco incident and 21 alcohol incidents per hour on average. Limiting tobacco and alcohol incidents on television could reduce adolescents’ risk of substance use.