WASHINGTON - Almost half of the music clips made for hip hop's biggest hits in the past five years have featured scenes of smoking or vaping, researchers said Monday.
"Music videos offer largely unregulated opportunities for exposure to, and brand advertising of, combustible and electronic tobacco and marijuana products," said a report published in the Journal of the America Medical Association.
The report warned that product placement for particular brands of smoking gear was on the rise in videos for hip hop music, which is the most popular genre in the United States.
Kristin Knutzen, a researcher in public health at Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy, and two of her colleagues logged smoking in music clips that made Billboard magazine's hip hop charts between 2013 and 2017.
They tallied the number of portrayals of smoking, be it joints, cigarettes or e-cigarettes.
Of the 1,250 songs that made the Billboard 'Top 50' hip hop and R&B chart, between 40 to 50 percent had clips that featured some form of smoking, depending on the year.
The music videos were collectively viewed some 49 billion times.
The smoking included joints (pure cannabis rolled in cigarette paper), spliffs (weed and tobacco), blunts (marijuana rolled in cigar leaves, which are popular with rappers) as well as pipes, cigarettes and vaping devices, which are often used to inhale cannabis products.
The researcher also logged every instance of smoke or vapor appearing on screen.
Brand mark placement also increased over the same period, the study showed, from zero percent for "combustible" (non-electronic) products in 2013 to almost 10 percent of clips in 2017.
One of the biggest hits of 2017, "I'm The One," by DJ Khaled with Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance The Rapper and Lil Wayne, was viewed 1.1 billion times on Youtube and shows a female dancer voluptuously exhaling smoke from an e-cigarette. A later shot zooms in on a box with an e-cigarette brand label on it.
Rappers have always featured product placement in their video, be it for sneakers, clothes, sound systems or alcohol. Theoretically, if the film-makers receive payment for the placement, they are supposed to include an acknowledgement of the fact.
Since 2010, the US Food and Drug Administration required prior notification for any paid tobacco product placement in music videos or in movies, but the rule does not yet apply to e-cigarettes, and such notifications are not public.
"Future regulation that directly addresses the often co-occurring appearance and marketing of tobacco, marijuana, and electronic products in music videos would limit exposure to their use and could reduce the burden of tobacco and marijuana use," the researchers said.