Reality TV encourages underage drinking and smoking: experts

Reality TV encourages underage drinking and smoking: experts

PanARMENIAN.Net - Reality TV shows such as Love Island are encouraging children and young people to smoke or drink under age by showing contestants regularly engaging in both pursuits, public health experts warn, The Guardian reports.

An analysis of how often alcohol and tobacco were depicted or referenced in five popular reality series found they featured much more often in those programmes than on other primetime shows.

The study, by researchers at Nottingham University, concluded: “Reality TV programmes are a major source of exposure to young people in the UK and is likely to be a contributor to smoking and alcohol uptake by young people.”

Ofcom’s broadcasting code restricts the use of depictions of alcohol or tobacco in programmes aimed at children and discourages depiction of either substance in a way that would glamourise their consumption in any programme shown before the 9pm children’s viewing “watershed”.

Despite this restriction, researchers led by Alexander Barker found: “Reality TV programmes, while usually broadcast after the 9pm watershed, are widely seen and accessed by young people and that this genre of programme is exposing young people to tobacco and alcohol content.”

The ease with which under-18s can watch such programmes on catch-up services make it hard to stop them seeing shows in which both substances feature often, the report said.

The academics reached their findings after watching 112 episodes between January and August last year from the five shows Love Island, The Only Way is Essex, Geordie Shore, Made in Chelsea and Celebrity Big Brother. The latter was axed last September after 18 years on screen.

The makers of Love Island stopped featuring smoking after its depiction in the 2017 series led to a backlash. There was no tobacco content in the 2018 series, according to the study published in the Journal of Public Health.

Alcohol appeared in all 112 episodes and also in 2,212 one-minute clips, which made up 42% of all clips the researchers looked at. Drink being consumed was featured in 18% of the one-minute clips, while inferred alcohol consumption – mainly characters holding drinks – was in 34% of clips.

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