MPAA chairman Charles Rivkin defended the way that the voluntary movie ratings system informs parents about smoking in movies, as a group of senators called for the industry to take greater action to limit tobacco use on screen … He also pushed back on the idea of giving an R rating to just about any movie that depicts smoking.
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The Motion Picture Association of America should act to reduce youth exposure to smoking in movies, including by issuing an R rating to movies that feature tobacco imagery, wrote seven U.S. senators in a letter to MPAA Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin.
Some Democratic senators are encouraging the new head of the Motion Picture Association of America to ensure “responsible” practices when it comes to displaying use of tobacco in films – a plea they believe will stop young people from taking up smoking.
“Although the evidence connecting smoking imagery to youth smoking initiation is strong, MPAA has yet to take meaningful action to discourage tobacco imagery in films or effectively warn viewers and parents of tobacco’s presence in a movie,” write the Senators in their letter to MPAA Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin. “Our nation’s dramatic decline in youth tobacco use is a tremendous achievement, but on-screen depictions remain a threat to this progress and threaten to re-normalize tobacco use in our society. We cannot afford to lose any ground in this area.”
The U.S. Surgeon General has definitively concluded that exposure to smoking in movies leads to youth initiation, but enactment of certain public health policies could reduce youth smoking rates by nearly 20% and prevent one million deaths.
The silent film era ended nearly a century ago, but Hollywood is still mute when it comes to demands to change its rating system to award an R rating to most movies that feature tobacco.
A young patient of mine once said to me, “If famous actors can chain smoke every day and be successful, live so long and also be physically fit, then why can’t my parents let me smoke once a week with friends?” The psychology that a role model is doing something wrong, hence it’s okay for us to do it too, exists amongst many.
Obviously, the industry is aware of the problem, so what’s left but for them to do something about it?
...Deadpool, a 20th Century Fox release, opens with Reynolds exhaling a cloud of cigarette smoke into the camera, probably meant to tweak his superhero cousins at Disney, which doesn’t permit smoking in its movies. Disney, of course, is on the brink of acquiring Fox’s entertainment division, which will make it even more of a franchise-oriented juggernaut than it already is. Although that’s an alarming prospect, I’m all for purging cigarettes from movies and TV, which statistics show have an undue influence in getting kids to start smoking.
Cigarettes have been such an integral part of movies for so long that one big concern in the lead up to Disney and Fox's planned merger is — seriously — all the smoking in Fox movies. This hour: a look at the cultural history of smoking. Participants include film critic David Edelstein. [Includes 49:30 audio]
San Francisco Chronicle
Fox was the studio closest to Big Tobacco...Last year, Fox Searchlight Pictures released a biopic of Billie Jean King, who served on Philip Morris’ board for five years. Philip Morris used women’s tennis to push Virginia Slims to young women.
Studios also face pressure overseas from the World Health Organization, which has called for governments to implement more aggressive regulation of movies that contain tobacco imagery. India, France and Britain are among the countries where action has been taken or is being discussed.
Top executives of Philip Morris (later Altria) and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (later Fox) served on each other’s boards of directors for twenty-five years, from 1989 to 2013. A 1985 memorandum from the tobacco company’s CEO, discovered in the course of lawsuits against the tobacco company, named Mr. Murdoch as a media proprietor “sympathetic with our position … an ally that we can and should exploit.”
The New York Times
…[A]ntismoking advocates want Mr. Iger to extend [Disney's tobacco depictions] rule to all future youth-rated films (G, PG, PG-13) made by Fox and its Fox Searchlight specialty label, which are among the assets that Disney is buying from Rupert Murdoch for $54.2 billion. Among other things, activists want “graphic health warnings” added to youth-rated films in the Fox library that depict smoking — like “Avatar” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past” — before selling them on DVD or via video-on-demand services.
The campaigners want the communications regulator, Ofcom, and the British Board of Film Classification to monitor youth exposure to depictions of tobacco use on screen, to discourage any depictions of tobacco use and require broadcasters or cinemas to run anti-smoking adverts during presentations that feature smoking.
Action on Smoking and Health
In a strongly worded submission to the Select Committee on Science and Technology ASH and the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol studies warn that smoking on TV and in films encourages children to take up smoking. They point out that children in the UK are still exposed to significant amounts of smoking on screen and that it is the amount of smoking that is important, not whether it is glamourised or not.
Among TV shows popular with teens and young adults, Netflix had the most portrayals of tobacco use.
New Zealand Herald
Regardless of why the characters are seen smoking, it's striking that many of the shows included in the study, such as Stranger Things and Fuller House, are aimed at children. We also know that the normalisation of tobacco use in movies does have a strong impact on a child's risk of future tobacco use," David Hill, chairman for the American Academy of Pediatrics' Council on Communications and Media told US News and World Report.
The Washington Post
The Truth Initiative — the nonprofit anti-tobacco organization — released a study that compared seven popular Netflix shows to seven popular broadcast shows. In this sample it found Netflix’s shows featured characters smoking almost three times as often as those produced by broadcast networks like NBC, ABC and CBS.
[Truth Initiative's Robin] Koval suggests smoking on TV shows could increase if streaming services continue to rapidly expand programming and don’t adopt policies discouraging smoking, like those in place at the broadcast networks.
Majority of programs popular with young audiences prominently depict smoking, with "Stranger Things" the worst offender.
Netflix shows contained 319 “tobacco incidents” — more than twice the number in broadcast and cable TV shows, which had 139, per the watchdog organization’s analysis of top series for the 2015-16 season.
“We know that there is a direct correlation between youths seeing (smoking) in films and also them beginning to be tobacco consumers or even just trying it,” said Peterborough Public Health peer leader and presenter Meagan Lacombe. “It’s also a concern because films are the last place that tobacco companies can advertise to youth.” [VIDEO]
As the world gets ready for this Sunday’s Academy Awards, some Vancouver students are playing the role of movie critic. [Vancouver students] have kept a close eye on acting and cinematography and spotted something they don't like. Linda Aylesworth tells us what they're doing about it. [VIDEO]
The [provincial] government received an “F” for failing to protect Alberta youth from the depiction of smoking in youth-rated movies and a “D” for not implementing and enforcing approved legislation to prohibit tobacco sales to minors. [Full report at http://bit.ly/2FYcwdx]
An advocacy group that uses proxy resolutions to spur consumer-electronics chains and oil producers to change practices is turning its attention to mutual fund companies that invest in tobacco — and Hollywood. [News article is subscription only]
“Tobacco companies used to pay studios, directors [and] actors for product placement on the screen,” said [Erika] Sward [of the American Lung Association]. “We know that was one of the ways that the tobacco industry directly marketed their products, many of which were aimed at young people. That was prior to the Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco companies in 1998, but we still do see a great deal of tobacco use in the movies and on screen. It was way back in 1964 [that] the Surgeon General concluded that smoking causes lung cancer.”
It’s early days for this latest salvo in France’s bid to reduce the nation’s nicotine intake, and it’s unclear if there would be a move to factor smoking into the ratings system. While many agree that system is in need of an overhaul after several certifications have been challenged in recent years — mostly owing to sex and violence — one industry executive tells me of a hard crackdown on smoking: “If it’s a battle they start, I don’t believe it’s going to work. Society’s mood is going to be, ‘What? No way.’ It would be ridiculed.”
The Guardian (UK)
The debate was ignited after the Socialist senator Nadine Grelet-Certenais accused France’s film-makers of continuing to advertise for the tobacco industry. “Seventy per cent of new French films have at least one scene of someone smoking. This more or less helps to make its use banal, even promote it, to children and adolescents,” Grelet-Certenais told the Sénat, the upper house of parliament.
Health Minister Agnés Buzyn said she would be contacting the French culture minister - whose remit includes the country’s film industry - to discuss the issue and that so-far unspecified “measures” would be taken to make French directors and screenwriters kick their tobacco habit.