July 26, 2022

Tobacco in 2021 Youth-Rated Prequels, Sequels and Remakes


Looking back 2021 was a big year for prequels, sequels, and remakes of popular films. Among top U.S. grossing films rated appropriate for youth (PG-13 or less), we have seen a lot of prequels, sequels, and remakes go tobacco free in 2021. However, improvements still need to be made as we saw several popular youth-rated franchises continue to feature tobacco.

Where We’ve Seen Progress

Films in the long-running Fast and Furious franchise have been tobacco free since 2011, with the following top 10 U.S. grossing sequels featuring no tobacco: F9: The Fast Saga (2021), Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019), Fast & Furious 6 (2013), and Fast Five (2011). Fast & Furious (2009) had just one tobacco incident while earlier top grossing films in the franchise had considerably more tobacco, with 50 tobacco incidents in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) and 24 incidents in 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003).

Spider-Man movies have also notably been tobacco free since 2017, with zero tobacco incidents in Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021), Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019), Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018), and Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017). The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) was also tobacco free, however the sequel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), disappointingly followed up to include 20 tobacco incidents. Earlier Spider-Man films also featured varying levels of smoking, with 17 incidents in Spider-Man 3 (2007), 24 incidents in Spider-Man 2 (2004), and 33 incidents in Spider-Man (2002).

Scenes of villains smoking were also removed from the Cruella prequel and Space Jam sequel. Disney’s Cruella (2021) was completely tobacco free, which comes in stark contrast to the oft-smoking Cruella de Vil portrayed in the animated 101 Dalmatians (first released in 1961) and the live action 101 Dalmatians released in 1996. The new Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021) was also tobacco free, despite 1996's Space Jam featuring a cigar-smoking villain.

The two latest animated Addams Family films, The Addams Family 2 (2021) and The Addams Family (2019) were also tobacco free, which is a welcome follow-up to 1991’s The Addams Family and 1993’s Addam’s Family Values, both of which featured tobacco use, namely cigar smoking. Similarly, the two latest films from the Ghostbusters franchise, Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) and Ghostbusters (2016), have both been tobacco free. Again, this shows great progress for the franchise given how heavily cigarette smoking featured in the 1984 Ghostbusters.

Where Improvements Are Needed

While 2021 ushered in many tobacco free prequels, sequels, and remakes, there are several notable examples of franchises where tobacco persists. First, the latest film in the Matrix franchise, The Matrix Resurrection (2021), featured 9 tobacco incidents. It is disappointing to see tobacco use in recent films in the Matrix franchise considering that the previously released, top grossing The Matrix: Reloaded (2003) was tobacco free. Steven Spielberg’s re-imagining of West Side Story (2021) was another major offender, featuring 33 tobacco incidents to stay in line with the smoking depicted in the 1961 version of the film. Lastly, we continue to see tobacco in the notoriously smoky James Bond franchise, with 18 tobacco incidents in the latest No Time to Die (2021). Indeed, Casino Royale (2006) has been the only smoke free film in the more than 50 movie Bond franchise.

We have seen a lot of progress in 2021 with many top U.S. grossing, youth-rated film prequels, sequels, and remakes excluding tobacco without suffering in popularity. However, tobacco continued to appear in several popular franchises in 2021, showing us that Hollywood needs to continue to be reminded of the extensive evidence that exposure to onscreen smoking causes youth to smoke and that removal of tobacco from films does not cause them to perform more poorly.

This blog post was written in collaboration with Danielle Driscoll, Marissa Greenband, and Savannah Olivier of Breathe California Sacramento Region.