Policy solution | In a legally-binding affidavit, the credited producers of a film should certify that no one associated with the media production received any consideration or entered into any agreement related to tobacco depictions. A certificate to this effect should be posted in the end credits.
What it will do | The tobacco industry collaborated with the U.S. film industry to promote smoking and tobacco brands from the late 1920s to at least the mid-1990s, affecting hundreds of mainstream films. Deals were made with major film studios, with production companies, producers, directors, actors, and property masters. Certification holds producers accountable for deals and side-deals in their productions.
How it will work | Producer credits are codified by the Producers Guild of America. Credit is granted only to those with executive authority over key stages of film production. All those receiving a “produced by” credit for any film with tobacco imagery will file a publicly accessible affidavit. An abbreviated declaration will be posted in the film’s end credits. A sworn certification gives producers an incentive to make sure that everyone on the production team knows tobacco industry favors are off-limits, even when delivered through so-called "cut-outs," as the tobacco industry has done elsewhere.
What film companies now say | In 2008, Time Warner (Warner Bros., now part of AT&T) began posting the following statement in end credits of selected films:
No person or entity associated with this film received payment or anything of value, or entered into any agreement, in connection with the depiction of tobacco products.
In 2008, Universal (Comcast) began adding this statement to end credits of some films:
The depictions of tobacco smoking contained in this film are based solely on artistic consideration and are not intended to promote tobacco consumption. The Surgeon General has determined that there are serious health risks associated with smoking and with secondhand smoke.
Universal’s text does not address pay-offs. It is similar to a statement in end credits of a James Bond film, License to Kill (1989), which also cited the U.S. Surgeon General. In fact, Philip Morris’ advertising agency had secretly paid that film’s producers $350,000 to promote Lark cigarettes on screen and in a Japanese advertising campaign.
In 2012, Paramount (Viacom) released a PG-rated film with this declaration in the end credits. Note that it is limited to the studio itself and does not include the film's production chain:
Paramount Pictures did not receive any payment or other consideration, or enter into any agreement, for the depiction of tobacco products in this film.
Summary | The 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with state attorneys general prohibited domestic tobacco companies from paying for product placement, but did not affect the companies' overseas affiliates. Brand display continued. Non-branded smoking incidents in top-grossing films actually increased until 2005. Given the long, documented history of Hollywood's tobacco deals, certification of no pay-offs finally give producers a stake in keeping their productions free of tobacco industry influence. In an era when “product placement coordinators” get screen credit, the audience should know how tobacco got into the movie, too.