Young teenagers who watch a lot of films with alcohol heavily featured in scenes are more likely to start binge-drinking, a study claims.
The British Medical Journal has published a study by scientists in New Hampshire that has prompted suggestions that Hollywood should restrict alcohol product placement in the same way as it does for tobacco.
More than 6,500 US teenagers aged between 10 and 14 took part in a two-year study where they were regularly quizzed about their film-watching habits alongside personal rebelliousness levels and peer behaviour.
They were asked which movies they had seen from a randomly selected 532 films, all of which were in the US box office top 100.
Researchers counted the number of seconds of alcohol use on screen in each film and found that teenagers had on average seen around four-and-a-half hours of on-screen drinking. Some saw up to eight hours.
Over the two years of the research, the proportion of teens who started drinking alcohol more than doubled from 11 percent to 25 percent. Those who took up binge-drinking (five or more drinks a session) tripled from 4 percent to 13 percent.
Associations were also found with the availability of alcohol at home and whether a teenagers' parents drank at home.
Overall it was found that those young people who watched the most films featuring alcohol were twice as likely to start drinking and 63 percent more likely to progress to binge-drinking.
The study authors found that the association with alcohol was not just with characters who drink, but also with alcohol product placement.
"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 on alcohol brand appearance, regardless of film writing," the report claims.
The authors conclude that Hollywood should take responsibilty for its impact overseas and point to the decline in the depiction of smoking in films.
"Like influenza, images in Hollywood movies begin in one region of the world then spread globally, where they may affect drinking behaviours of adolescents everywhere they are distributed," they add.