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Alcohol in Movies Like The Hangover Can Push Teens to Binge Drink?

'The Hangover.'
'The Hangover.'
Warner Bros.

Kids are influenced to drink when they see heavy alcohol use in their favorite movies, according to a new study.

Admit it. The Hangover made you want to live out that kind of Vegas weekend (if you haven't already).

Now imagine you're 14. Yeah. Research published this week in the journal BMJ Open says Hollywood films with lots of hooch make American teenagers not only want to down a few, but binge drink as well:

Researchers looked at 6500 American kids aged 10 to 14 and asked them about their viewing habits and alcohol use.

Academics lead by James Sargent, professor at Dartmouth Medical School, found that the youngsters had witnessed from 4.5 to 8 hours of on-screen drinking.

How did that translate to behavior?

Following the preteens and teens for two years, researchers found the proportion of them who drank more than doubled, going from about 1 in 10 of their participants to 1 in 4.

'The Hangover.'
'The Hangover.'
Waner Bros.

The number of binge drinkers (those who had 5 or more drinks in a row) among the youths tripled from 4 to 13 percent.

Of course, this is just correlative -- it doesn't prove cause-and-effect. In fact, 1 in 4 said they had parents who drank at home, and even more than that (29 percent) said they could get alcohol at home.

A summary of the study maintains, though, that ...

... teens who watched the most movies featuring alcohol were twice as likely to start drinking as those who watched the least. And they were 63% more likely to progress to binge drinking.

The authors blamed not only the depiction of drinking (seen in films like The Hangover) but product placement that puts brands (such as Patron and Heineken) in the spotlight.

The authors suggest that Hollywood treat alcohol as it has tobacco and cut back:

Product placement in movies is forbidden for cigarettes in the USA, but is legal and commonplace for the alcohol industry, with half of Hollywood films containing at least one alcohol brand appearance, regardless of film rating.

The researchers also warn our backyard industry that what happens in Hollywood doesn't stay in Hollywood:

Like influenza, images in Hollywood movies begin in one region of the world then spread globally ...

Like a bad hangover.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]


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