Company tobacco policies

By January 2013, all major studios that control the Motion Picture Association had published individual company policies addressing tobacco depictions in their G, PG and PG-13 films. The policies vary in detail, but none meets the evidence-based policy standards endorsed by health experts worldwide.

Company policy loopholes often allow smoking for undefined "creative" reasons or other subjective criteria. Policies also exempt the many studio-distributed films produced by a third-party, with a co-production partner or outside the United States. Despite adoption of company policies, tobacco has persisted in youth-rated films at dangerous levels.

No film company, before or after adopting its policy, has effectively eliminated smoking from its youth-rated films for more than a short period. In 2017, the US CDC observed that "individual company policies alone have not been shown to be efficient in minimizing smoking in movies."

Through 2019, 44 percent of all PG-13 films released by the major studios have featured tobacco imagery — while their individual tobacco policies have been in force.

The table below shows when each MPA-member company adopted and revised its tobacco policy; lists examples of policy language too subjective to be enforceable; and shows what share of the company's PG-13 films have included smoking, from the year it adopted its first policy through 2019.

Because the media companies control the MPA, they have the power to order the MPA to modernize the ratings to rate any film with tobacco R.

Company tobacco policies | % of PG-13 films with smoking under each policy


Policy date


Percent smoking

AT&T    (Warner) 2005 2007  2018 "[C]ompelling creative reason" 42%
Comcast (Universal) 2007 "[I]mportance [from a] factual or creative standpoint ... difficulty in removing it" 41%
Disney        (inc. Fox​​​​)​ 2007 2012 2015 Portrayals of "smoking in an unfavorable light or [that] emphasize the negative consequences" 44%
Sony 2012 "[I]mportant tie to the creative context of the project or the creative vision of the filmmaker" 50%
ViacomCBS (Paramount) 2013 "[C]reative vision … filmmaker believes that the depiction of smoking or tobacco is important to the film" 50%