I’ve always been interested in the combination of medicine and sociology, particularly when it applies to the public as a whole. A recent news article from the heralded MNT claimed that we could decrease cigarette consumption by reducing the number of smoking episodes on TV.
Article from Medical News Today
Premise: Research was conducted as to whether televised smoking events influenced our own smoking habits.
Conclusion: “For every one less tobacco event per hour of programming across 2 years, there would be two fewer packs of cigarettes smoked for every American adult.”
Historical Supplement: “Tobacco events on TV have fallen from 4.96 instances per hour of programming in 1961 to 0.29 instances per hour in 2010. This is in line with a decline in cigarette consumption over the same period.”
My biggest problem with this article is that it implies that the negative trend from 1961 to 2010 of tobacco usage was primarily the result of decreased TV coverage. The researchers fail to consider that many socioeconomic factors might have contributed significantly to this trend, such as increased awareness of the youth or appeal of other recreational drugs. The latter option is something I would strongly advise the research team to consider. American citizens of the 1960s likely did not have access to the array of drugs that the youth is exposed to today. The explosion of drug names (mollies, LSD, etc) show how rampant this problem is, and indeed how dramatically times have changed. Prior to the 1960s, tobacco may have been the main form of drugs, but now it is a rather minor player, competing with a whole host of equally insidious, if not more so, drugs. Therefore, tobacco’s declining spiral may not be so much indicative of the subconscious power of TV in the human psyche, but rather indicative of its waning popularity.
With that stated, I realize the impossibility of resolving the quagmire I unearthed. How can anyone possibly sort through these various socioeconomic factors and isolate the principal cause for the decreasing trend? Just as the line between reality and fantasy is all too easily blurred within the confines of the TV set, our world is too complicated, too complex, to be sorted and categorized neatly into cause-and-effect flowcharts. In a broader sense, the scientific community has always encouraged us to do just that: to separate the rational from the improbable and reach a logical, viable solution. However, as this article has proven, when the nuances of humankind are brought into play, such unbiased research is impossible.