Public reaction to the portrayal of the tobacco industry in the film The Insider Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVES:To assess public perceptions of the tobacco industry and behavioural intentions for tobacco use in response to watching the film The Insider. DESIGN:Self administered pre-film survey conducted immediately before viewing and post-film telephone survey conducted within 1-5 weeks of viewing. SETTING:Two commercial cinemas in Melbourne, Australia. SUBJECTS:323 cinema patrons were recruited before screening of target films. 182 watched The Insider, 141 watched Erin Brockovich. INTERVENTIONS:Subjects watched one of two films: The Insider which featured information about unethical conduct by the tobacco industry and negative information about the health effects of smoking, or the "control" film Erin Brockovich which had an analogous plot without anti-tobacco content. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:Pre-film questionnaire: assessed movie viewing habits, demographic characteristics, smoking status, attitudes towards the tobacco industry, intentions for smoking. Post-film questionnaire: assessed same attitudes and intentions plus questions on the film viewed and perceptions of smoking prevalence. RESULTS:266 (82%) subjects completed the post-film survey. Attitudes toward the tobacco industry were unfavourable at baseline. Those who saw The Insider held more negative views of business conduct by the tobacco industry than those who saw Erin Brockovich, once pre-existing attitudes to the industry were controlled for. The Insider also appears to have promoted a short term reduction in intentions to smoke. CONCLUSIONS:Results of this study suggest that if people were recurrently exposed to anti-tobacco content in movies there is potential for a more substantial and lasting impact on attitudes toward the tobacco industry and smoking.

publication date

  • September 1, 2001