Images and references to booze and tobacco that feature in best-selling games are directly influencing the young minds of players, scientists at the University of Nottingham found.
They discovered teens who play such games are twice as likely to have tried smoking and boozing – than those not glued to their console.
Researchers looked at the content of the 32 best-selling video games in the UK in 2012/13.
And they asked teens who played them to take part in an online survey.
Out of the top five most popular games, Grand Theft Auto V & VI contained the highest level of alcohol and smoking content.
Psychologist, Dr Joanne Cranwell, from the university’s UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, said: “Although around 54 per cent of UK adolescents play video games online, parental concern over exposure to inappropriate content while playing video games seems to be lower than for other media, like movies for example.
“While 80 per cent of children aged 10-15 play packaged or online video games with an age rating higher than their age, more than half of British parents are unaware of the harmful content this exposes them to.
“Video games are clearly attractive to adolescents regardless of age classification.
“It appears that official PEGI content descriptors are failing to restrict youth access to age inappropriate content.
“We think that the PEGI system needs to include both alcohol and tobacco in their content descriptors.