Music videos for Beyonce's Drunk in Love and Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines are saturated with depictions of drinking and smoking, making them a health hazard for young people, public health experts say.
A study of how often teens were exposed to booze and tobacco in popular music videos has caused some to question whether companies are paying for their products to appear alongside influential musicians.
The research published in the British Medical Journal this month found Trumpets by Jason Derulo and Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke delivered some of the highest number of smoking impressions last year. Timber by Pitbull, and Drunk in Love by Beyonce, included the most alcohol content.
The researchers from the University of Nottingham examined music videos in Britain's top 40 chart during a three-month period between late 2013 and early 2014. They found that 32 of the top 40 music videos contained 821 10-second intervals, of which 47 included tobacco content and 233 included alcohol content. Electronic cigarettes appeared in six intervals.
When they looked at surveys of British people about how often they viewed these videos on YouTube, they found that 22 per cent of teens had watched them. This meant teenagers had been exposed to an average of 52 alcohol impressions while watching the clips and 10 tobacco impressions. And that's only if they watched the videos once.
Exposure was about 65 per cent higher among girls, with the highest numbers of tobacco impressions delivered to 13-15 year old girls.
The researchers said it was well known that adolescents who were exposed to alcohol and tobacco were more likely to consume the drugs themselves.
They said music videos were largely unregulated, making them a potentially good target for companies wanting to spruik products. While films are age classified in most countries, and television content is subject to controls on what is broadcast during periods when children are likely to be watching, music videos are subject to none of these restraints.
The researchers called for more discussion about whether music videos should include anti-smoking or anti-alcohol messages before they play, but said it would be better if video makers and producers avoided smoking and alcohol references.
"Disney films has now announced that it will no longer make films including smoking. We need a similar degree of social responsibility across the tobacco, alcohol and music industries," they wrote.
Professor of health policy at Curtin University in Western Australia, Mike Daube, said this was "an issue of enormous concern", partly because children could be watching these videos on various devices without their parents being aware of it.
"Children should not be exposed to direct or indirect promotions for alcohol and tobacco, especially in media specifically directed to them. This can only serve to undermine some of the very positive trends we are seeing," he said.
"Both the alcohol and tobacco industries are incredibly innovative in finding ways to promote their products, and have a long history of paid product placement. We will probably never know how much product placement has been going on, but it would be amazing if the companies were not behind at least some of it."