Tobacco companies spend millions on marketing and advertising. One common strategy 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 smokefree?
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.
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.
What can be done?
The American Academy of Pediatrics and many other leading health organizations have endorsed the “SmokeFree 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.
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:
- CDC MMWR: Tobacco Use in Top-Grossing Movies
- Fact Sheet: Smoking in the Movies
- Exposure to Onscreen Tobacco in Movies among Ontario Youth, 2004-2013
Did you know? Many US 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.
- 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
For more research, visit the Smoke Free Movies website.
American Academy of Pediatrics