May 13, 2020

AT&T puts the smoking back in Superman


The Motion Picture Association (MPA) today issued this age-rating for a home video release:

SUPERMAN: MAN OF TOMORROW — Rated PG-13 for violence, some bloody images, suggestive material, language, smoking and brief partial nudity. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (#52714, issued May 13, 2020)

Superman: Man of Tomorrow is an animated, feature-length movie produced by DC Universe, a video-on-demand platform owned by AT&T’s WarnerMedia.

Write AT&T, the company responsible.We recommend you send a brief letter to:

      John Stankey, CEO

      AT&T Inc.

      208 S. Akard Street,

      Dallas TX 752020

History you need to know

1 | In 1978’s Superman movie, Lois Lane lights a Marlboro and Superman uses his X-ray vision to confirm that she doesn’t have lung cancer: “Not yet, thank goodness."

2 | In December 1980, advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi and Britain's Health Education Council launch a two-year, £3.5 million public service campaign against youth-smoking. TV and magazine ads star Superman, who battles bad-guy Nick O’Teen with the slogan, “Never say yes to a cigarette.”

3 | Superman II opens in spring 1981, while the UK anti-smoking campaign is running. Lois Lane smokes cigarettes, Marlboro logos appear on city streets, and Superman fights his way out of a Marlboro truck after Philip Morris pays the movie’s British producers £20,000 for product placement (worth nearly $125,000 today). Superman's producers give Philip Morris the power to remove anything from the film “detrimental” to the Marlboro brand name. Read the deal in UCSF’s Truth Industry Documents Library.

Forty years later, AT&T puts the smoking back in Superman. Why? Does AT&T have a policy against PG-13 smoking? Yes. Does it have a policy against tobacco product placement? Yes. Read the policy for yourself.

But — does AT&T's policy count for anything in a global health crisis worsened by smoking? Ask AT&T's CEO, John Stankey. 


The MPA adds “smoking” descriptors to a tiny fraction (13%) of all top-grossing, youth-rated movies with tobacco content. Unhelpful to parents, these labels occasionally give us advance notice of a film with smoking. What policies will protect kids? See the “Recommendations” in What is Hollywood hiding? (2020, University of California, San Francisco).

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