Smoke-free Movies and Media

​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. A 2014 Surgeon General report found that there is a causal relationship between youth seeing tobacco imagery on-screen and initiation of tobacco use, and noted that the more frequently youth see tobacco imagery in movies, the more likely they are to start smoking. As such,  eliminating tobacco imagery in youth-rated movies (eg, movies rated “G,” “PG,” or “PG-13”) can help protect 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 a long history of the tobacco industry collaborating with the film industry to promote smoking and tobacco brands.  

Fast Facts
  • In 2016, 26% of all youth-rated movies (G, PG, PG-13) contained tobacco impressions. 

  • There were 809 instances of tobacco imagery in top-grossing PG-13 movies in 2016. This is an increase of 43% since 2010. 

What can be done?
The American Academy of Pediatrics and many other leading health organizations have endorsed the “Smoke Free Movies Campaign,” which works to encourage the film industry to assign an R rating for movies containing tobacco imagery (unless it depicts the consequences of tobacco use or depicts historically accurate tobacco use), and encourages studios to 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 (i.e., 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 Campaign, based out of the University of California at San Francisco offers ideas on how to effectively take action.

View a presentation about successful tobacco control media campaigns and the lessons that can be applied to campaigns for other health topics- presented by Jonathan Klein, MD, MPH, FAAP, Director of the AAP Richmond Center at the Council on Communications and Media program during the 2013 AAP National Conference and Exhibition
     • Slides

Research Shows...
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:




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 a while, and the results show that Ontario youth had greater exposure to onscreen tobacco imagery than their US counterparts.


For more research, visit the Smoke Free Mo​vies Web site​.​
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