For more than a decade, scientists at iRT have conducted groundbreaking research on the impact of media literacy education for substance misuse prevention. Recently, Dr. Janis Kupersmidt, an expert on this topic, co-authored a chapter entitled “Media Literacy and Smoking” in the newly-published International Encyclopedia of Media Literacy.

The encyclopedia – which is available now – aims to be a reference for students, teachers, and scholars interested in the field of media literacy. Dr. Kupersmidt’s entry provides a detailed look into how media literacy education (MLE) has been effectively used to teach substance misuse prevention programs with a focus on the prevention of smoking. The chapter provides a comprehensive review of the literature as well as suggestions for future research. Included in the entry are results from evaluations of the effectiveness on tobacco use of three of iRT’s media literacy education programs: Media Detective, Media Detective Family, and Media Ready.

The chapter describes the process by which people perceive and interpret things they see and hear in the media, and how the results of these information processing skills affect health decision-making.  Media literacy education can provide children and adolescents with the skills they need to think critically about and reject pro-tobacco messages in the media. For example, a randomized controlled trial of the Media Detective program showed that elementary school students who completed the program were significantly better equipped to process unhealthy media messages about smoking. After completing the Media Detective program, students better understood the persuasive intent of advertising and showed less interest in tobacco-branded merchandise. Students who had used tobacco in the past even reported that they felt significantly more able to refuse tobacco in the future. These findings, and many others in the entry, paint a compelling picture of the power of media literacy education.

In addition to Dr. Kupersmidt’s contribution to the International Encyclopedia of Media Literacy, Drs. Tracy Scull and Christina Malik of iRT co-authored the chapter, “Role of Entertainment Media in Sexual Socialization,” – an entry informed by their innovative work in the field of sexual education using an MLE approach.