According to the study conducted by UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies (at the University of Nottingham) alcohol drinking and smoking is present in most of the reality TV programmes aired during last year. Top 5 shows included were Celebrity Big Brother, Made in Chelsea, The Only Way in Essex, Geordie Shore and Love Island.

What was discovered?

Research shows us that an estimated 580 million children are exposed to alcohol drinking. And 47 million children are exposed to smoking on screen. Alcohol drinking was evident in all episodes and smoking in 18% of episodes. 

Makers of these shows claim that their programmes always air after 9pm, when it’s assumed children will not be watching. But they are aware of catch-up TV, Netflix, YouTube and other channels widely available during the day. Children can see their shows anytime on internet.

The Guardian reports “Reality TV encourages children to drink and smoke”. As the popularity of these programmes rises with young people, they may see these bad habits as an equivalent of being successful or cool. Contestants are regularly shown drinking an alcoholic drink or smoking a cigarette.

Head of researchers Alexander Barker confirms by saying: “Given that seeing alcohol or tobacco imagery in the media promotes use among young people, our study therefore identifies reality television shows as a major potential driver of alcohol and tobacco consumption in young people in the UK”.

What officials think about the study

Royal Society for Public Health

Toby Green, tobacco policy lead at the Royal Society for Public Health, said: “The new findings show completely unacceptable levels of exposure of these harmful products to our children and young people. The amount of smoking shown risks “renormalizing” a habit that kills 100,000 Britons a year.” 

It is important to say, that this study measured exposure to these habits. It’s impossible to measure what impact this exposure had on children. 


According to NHS this study highlights the importance of families, teachers and others involved in the lives of young people. It’s crucial to discuss with your kids how they perceive smoking and alcohol drinking and help them understand the risks.