Smoke-free Movies and Media
Tobacco companies spend millions on marketing and advertising. The current trend is to put tobacco imagery into movies, TV, and other media to promote tobacco use and glamorize addiction. Tobacco control organizations have recognized this, and have been advocating for the elimination of tobacco from movies, TV, and other media images that may be seen by children.
What You Need to Know
Why should movies be smoke free?
Children are impressionable, and often imitate what they see. Smoking in the movies accounts for 37% of all smoking initiation. The 2014 Surgeon General report found that actions that would eliminate the depiction of tobacco use in movies, which are produced and rated as appropriate for children and adolescents, could have a significant effect on preventing youth from becoming tobacco users.
So, why is smoking still in movies?
Many movies contain tobacco imagery, even though it may not add anything to the movie itself. This is due to the influence and funding from tobacco companies.
In 2014, youth-rated movies (G, PG, PG-13) contained 45% of all tobacco impressions. For the same year, there were 1,150 tobacco incidents (single use or implied use of a tobacco product, usually smoking) in the PG-13 movies grossing among the top 10 for at least a week. Also in 2014, 36% of youth-rated movies (G, PG, PG-13) contained tobacco imagery. In 2007, 50% of TV programming rated TV-PG depicted tobacco use. For shows rated TV-14, it was 26%.
What can be done?
The American Academy of Pediatrics and several collaborating organizations encourage an R rating for movies containing tobacco imagery (unless it depicts the consequences of tobacco use or depicts historically accurate tobacco use), and that studios certify in the movie credits that no one associated with the film received any sort of compensation for including tobacco imagery in the production. The World Health Organization has released a report that calls for enforceable policies to restrict smoking in movies. Other ways to help combat this problem are to stop using brand identifiers in films that include tobacco imagery (ie, a clearly-marked cigarette package), to not offer public subsidies for movies featuring tobacco imagery, and to include strong antitobacco ads that run prior to the start of a film that includes tobacco imagery. Read more about these policies.
Well, I can't do anything about this... right?
WRONG. You can have a big impact. The Smoke Free Movies project, based out of the University of California at San Francisco offers ideas on how to effectively take action.
There is a lot of research that shows the link between smoking in TV or movies and in children, which has caused a lot of action to combat this issue:
Fact Sheet: Smoking in the Movies
Fact Sheet: Smokefree Movies: Top numbers
Exposure to Onscreen Tobacco in Movies among Ontario Youth, 2004-2013
Did you know that many U.S. films rated for adults are re-rated for youth and sent across the border to Canada? Health groups in Canada have been compiling data on this re-rating issue for awhile, and the results show that Ontario youth had greater exposure to onscreen tobacco imagery than their US counterparts.
Smoking in Top-Grossing US Movies, 2011 Published in: Preventing Chronic Disease
Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2012 Pages 565-597: Images of Smoking in Movies and Adolescent Smoking
AAP Urges Movies to go Smoke-free Press release based on a 2011 article in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Review
Depictions of Tobacco Use in 2007 Broadcast Television Programming Popular Among US Youth Published in: Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine
AAP Media Release: Paramount's Rango, PG with Smoking, Poses Risk to Children
Smoking in Top-Grossing Movies — United States, 1991–2009 Published in: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Review
Movie Character Smoking and Adolescent Smoking: Who Matters More, Good Guys or Bad Guys? Published in: Pediatrics
For more research, visit the Smoke Free Movies Web site.