Smoking in video games poses potential for real-world habit
It’s projected that advertisers will spend up to $7 billion by 2019 on ads in video games, but there is also unbranded placement that has some experts concerned. We got our hands on a report that tallied up the number of games that contain smoking as a character option.
Some let you know on the label—some don’t. Like the crash ‘em up car stealing video game Marina Spriggs’ teenage son Joe loves to play. Since the game is rated M for mature, and he’s not 17, she did her research, telling us, “I’m smart enough to know to talk to my child about the content that’s in there…” including limiting bad language, violence and even sex.
But she was surprised when we told her about an option in the game: “I had no idea that the game contained smoking at all.”
In one study, 42 percent of video games reviewed contained tobacco images, but only eight percent of those had tobacco-related content descriptors.
“People should know that the smoking depictions have the potential to drive behavior,” said Dave Dobbins, COO of the anti-tobacco group Truth Initiative.
He said there is scientific evidence that exposure to smoking in movies can influence teen smoking. He added, “I think we can feel comfortable that the same results would happen if we followed a longitudinal cohort of people who are exposed to smoking in video games. One big difference, though, you’re not just passively watching, sometimes you actually are the character who’s smoking.”
Truth Initiative showed a group of teens smoking scenes in a variety of games and asked them if the smoking would influence their behavior. One teen said, “I think having their favorite character smoking definitely can affect whether or not they become smokers later in life.”